After Google’s successful I/O show last week new voices claim it as the new anti-Apple or a new Microsoft.
Really? Hasn’t Google been the new Microsoft for some time? Google’s empire is still evolving and it is clear today that there is not much that can stop Google from becoming an organization with unprecedented reach, power and influence. Microsoft cannot match Google in some markets today and will continue to lose ground. Who can stop Google?
The IT industry is fundamentally changing. Just as Microsoft played an important role in bringing the PC to the mass market and the first one billion people to computing, Google has emerged as the company to possibly corral the rest of the globe. Bill Gates’ ingenious ideas and client software have created and shaped the past 25 years of mass market computing and it appears that Google’s might well shape the next 25 as we are moving into an age of cloud computing. Google holds all the keys necessary to unlock a market opportunity we may not even be able to understand today.
Some food for thought.
1. Google is the World Market
Google’s core business remains search and the goal to index all available information on this planet. Google’s front page, as simple as it is, has become a symbol for a door to the world: Depending on whom you ask, Google owns somewhere between 68 and 80% of the search market. According to Comscore, Google ran 10 billion searches in April of this year – 10 billion! And that is from Americans alone. Google.com is the most visited and most valuable website globally. Your relationship with Google can be the reason for tremendous success or utter failure. Simple notes on its home page can change the direction of a person, product, and possibly an entire industry, if necessary. It’s the best advertising and messaging spot in the world and Google owns it.
2. Chrome/Chromium Is The New Operating System
In cloud computing, Chrome/Chromium will be to Google what Windows was to Microsoft. Android is a bonus to that- and targets a market Microsoft has been going after for a long time but never figured out. The web browser will be extremely important in cloud computing as its technology will be the interface between the user and applications. Microsoft still has about 60% of the browser market, but 18% go to the old IE6 and less than 30% are currently owned by the most recent version 8. Google’s Chrome is gaining share rapidly, faster than any other browser in the market, and is expected to post more than 7% share for May, which is more than three times the share it had one year ago. According to Google, Chrome has about 70 million users, which is far less than the estimated 700 – 800 million of IE, but IE’s share is in a free fall these days. IE9 is in development and comes with an interesting angle – hardware acceleration, which Microsoft hopes will enable animation-rich HTML5 applications that blur the lines between web applications and those that are installed on our PCs today. The problem for Microsoft is, however, that IE is losing share and Chrome is gaining.
3. Google Creams Apple
There has been a lot of concern lately how far Apple can go with its technology and marketing power and how much power it has. While Apple’s influence is largely limited to the mobile space, this concern is legitimate, as we are, without doubt, going more and more mobile. But it seems more and more apparent that, as Apple desperately tries to protect its turf, that its best times may be coming to an end, as powerful iTunes, the AppStore and the iPhone are. Between Apple and Google, it is a battle between a walled garden and an open world: Android phones have begun outselling iPhones, which may change when the new iPhone will become available, but the writing is on the wall. Two or three versions of Apple’s iPhones can’t outsell hundreds or thousands of different Android phones in the long run. Just like Microsoft, Google does not hold its platform technology captive, but rather licenses the software out. Apple’s tight control of its entire platform has its advantages, but it ultimately limits its growth, while Google’s open platform growth has no boundaries. Apple has always been essential in providing choice next to Microsoft, but it appears that Google repeats the model that has made Microsoft so successful against Apple and avoids what has limited Apple’s growth in the PC market in the past. My guess? In the long run, Apple will be the 5% company in the mobile space. Ok, maybe 10%.
4. Google Owns the Application Space
It is amazing to see how many applications Google offers and what segments it covers. How many do you use yourself? Available applications make platforms successful and even if you look at Microsoft, the productivity software division is still raking in billions of dollars every quarter, while it is supporting the core Windows business. Google has probably the best online productivity suite available today and the company has been making improvements at an increasing pace lately. Email, maps, Earth, collaboration, a music store, entertainment (YouTube), image management, News, Finances – there isn’t much Google does not offer today. Plus, we will soon be seeing a web store and the Android Marketplace is gaining traction as well with more than 30,000 applications. Compared to Microsoft, Google’s application environment is an entirely different dimension and serves the needs for most computer users today. Conceivably, Google is all you need.
5. Antitrust Accusations
This is a not so obvious one. Once you see organizations become dominant in their markets, they will also have to hire an army of lawyers and lobbyists to stay in business and make sure that complaints, lawsuits and other legal attacks don’t overtake a company’s everyday business. For Google, it is quite amazing how this do-no-evil company is being shelled with lawsuits. Just at this time, Google is being sued over Wi-Fi snooping, in California there is a case considered referring age bias inside Google, YouTube is still in a fierce battle with Viacom, there is Google’s lawsuit against HTC, which is really aimed at Google’s Android as well, and Google just defended itself successfully in two trademark cases in Germany and the U.S., just to name a few. The same goes for antitrust concerns. Consumer groups , some of which are financed by Google’s rivals, have begun calling for a breakup of Google. There isn’t a single month in which we do not hear new concerns about a Google acquisition and its competitive impact. As Google spreads out, the number of complaints will increase and a Microsoft-style antitrust case may be just a matter of time, when there’s enough opposition in a market that is dominated by Google. The difference to Microsoft, however, may be that Google could face several antitrust suits, in which it potentially could use unfair monopoly power – online advertising, search, cloud applications, and more. There is an obvious fear in the market that Google will, eventually, attack any business until it is stopped. Lawsuits are often the ultima ratio in such a scenario.
I can still remember my first interview with Google co-founder Sergey Brin back in 1999, his messy office that looked more like a dorm room than an executive room, his excitement over unusual technology such as 3D mice, his modesty and his pride for the smallest accomplishments. Google has come a long way since then and has grown from a vulnerable 45-people startup into an organization that is more and more perceived as a threat to the existence of countless businesses around the globe.
It is time to treat Google as what it is. A company that will go after every opportunity it can and crush whatever is in its way. It isn’t the innocent startup anymore, but most likely the most powerful and influential organization in existence today. You can be excited or scared about what is developing in front of our eyes - but it is certainly extraordinary how this well-oiled machine makes its way into virtually every part of our lives and grows beyond anything we have seen to date.