92 Comments

Summary:

Google celebrated day one of Google I/O 2012 conference with a slew of new products and more announcements. Stand back a little and you start to see a company has pitch battles on its hand on many fronts, despite being strong on search, advertising and android.

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June, it seems, is the season for new product announcements in Silicon Valley. At its annual WWDC shindig,  Apple announced a slew of new products including its hot-new Macbook Pro with Retina display and iOS 6. A few days later, Microsoft announced Surface, a new tablet/computer that has been designed by Microsoft team and will be sold under the Microsoft brand in Microsoft stores.

And this week it seems it is Google’s turn. So far, it has announced massive upgrades to its search platform, the newest version of Android (Jellybean)the Google Glass, the Nexus 7 tablet and a new multimedia device, Nexus Q. It is also likely to introduce a new cloud offering at its Google I/O event, as I reported earlier.

However, when you stand back from all the announcements made by Google today and increase the periphery, you start to notice that this is a company that is fighting a lot of battles on many fronts. In some places it is winning, but most places it is trench warfare.

It is still the king of search and advertising. It is doing quite well when it comes to Android, though they never really talk about its real financial impact on Google’s business. I would argue that Google Apps and Google Chrome OS have a decent shot of carving out a meaningful role inside corporations, retailers, airlines and campuses. Google Maps is a market leader and well, there is nothing like YouTube – though the monetary impact of the video colossus is still kept under a fog by Google. However, this is where the list of sure things end. Simply take a look at this list of what I believe are important battles Google is fighting, and you begin to understand the challenges that Google faces.

Apple

  • Google’s Android is fighting with Apple’s iOS platform. It says a million new devices are being activated every day and there are 400 million Android devices out there.
  • Google just launched Nexus 7 to essentially compete with Apple’s iPad and other tablets in the market.
  • Google TV and Apple TV are in competition for the dollars and attention of connected-entertainment consumers.
  • Google Drive vs iCloud.
  • Google Maps versus Apple Maps.
  • Google Wallet/Play versus the Apple iTunes platform.
  • Google Books, Google Music and other Media versus iTunes and iBooks.

Microsoft

  • Google’s Chrome OS is taking on Microsoft’s OS.
  • Google Apps versus Microsoft Office Apps.
  • Google Android versus Microsoft Windows 8 platform.
  • Google Nexus 7 tablet versus Microsoft Surface tablet.
  • Google Cloud will be competing for Microsoft’s Azure cloud and developer affections.
  • Google Drive versus Microsoft Skydrive.
  • Google Search versus Microsoft Bing.

Amazon

  • Google Nexus 7 versus Amazon’s Kindle Fire.
  • Google Android platform versus the Amazon Fork.
  • Google Cloud wants to challenge Amazon Web Services.
  • Google Wallet versus Amazon payment system.
  • Google Books, Google Music and other media plays versus Amazon Music, Books and Media

Facebook

  • Google+ versus Facebook.
  • Google messaging versus Facebook Messaging.
  • Google Picasa versus Facebook Photos.
  • Google Ad Platform versus Facebook Ad Platform.
  • Google Search versus Facebook Social Discovery.

And there are some other companies Google is tussling with.

  • Google Drive versus DropBox as a hub of mobile data and apps.
  • Google Nexus Q versus Sonos.
  • Google Local versus Yelp.
  • Google Wallet versus Paypal, Square.
  • Google Search versus Twitter.
  • Google+ versus Twitter.
  • Google’s YouTube versus others such as Hulu.

The human cost of these battles

When I see Google fighting those battles, I can’t help but recall those history lessons. Rome, Napoleon and his Napoleonic wars, the Ottoman empire – they all took on challenges on multiple fronts and eventually lost. The human costs proved to be too much. Google too faces a similar dilemma. Admittedly, it has all the money in the world, but despite tens of thousands of employees, it lacks the star power to win on all fronts. Google no longer has a monopoly on attracting great talent to its team.

Bret Taylor, outgoing CTO of Facebook & ex-Googler

Google today has to keep buying companies to attract talent, but frankly that may not be enough. There are rivals who offer more attractive options to the Bret Taylors (ex-Google Maps & then CTO, Facebook) of the world. Why work at Google Wallet when you can get a gig at Square? Why stay at Google when Facebook beckons? Why be a product manager when you can start Instagram and cash out for a cool billion?

Having followed Google from its very inception, I know that Google’s product and experience was far superior to its competitors, many of who were essentially weakly run companies that were hobbled by the dot-com bust. Yahoo, despite its size, wasn’t really a great competitor for Google’s search technology and was too plodding in its embrace of search-based advertising.

Microsoft, too, was focused on its software businesses to actually put up a good fight in the marketplace. The second decade of the 21st century is proving to be a much tougher place for Google. The new rivals — everyone from Apple and Facebook to upstarts like Dropbox and Square — are more more fierce, more focused and more hungry.  The attitude of me-too-ism isn’t enough for Google.

As Google tries to expand into new territories it is leaving its core search vulnerable — not to another rival’s technology, but to end-users. The injection of Google+ into search results seems to be a growing point of dissatisfaction.

In my years of following the company, I came to understand that what separated Google from many of its competitors was its audacity. When search was supposed to be a dead-end, they did one better. When advertising was mired in morass, they took an existing idea of text ads and turned it into mega-billion dollar empire. The scale of Google’s infrastructure and belief that software was indeed going to be the intelligence inside a company were concepts that were inherently futuristic and ambitious. Google Mail and Google Maps are two other projects that started small but proved to have that special Google quality.

When I look at the first day of Google I/O, I am left impressed by Google Glass. The product itself is too nerdy and it still has ways to go before it becomes an everyday product. Nevertheless, it represents a bit of old Google. It represents the kind of things the company needs to do in order to leap forward of its rivals.

  1. Nikhil Deshmukh Wednesday, June 27, 2012

    Om, did you mean Google Glass (not Goggles)?

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    1. I did. Sorry…. it has been a long long day.

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  2. I think it’s not appropriate to compare “Google battle” with “Rome, Napoleon and his Napoleonic wars, the Ottoman empire”. They’re using different technology and it’s happening completely in a different space, though we cannot neglect the human workforce. I hope Google will win all the battle. There’re millions of people in the world who loves Google.

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    1. Sorry that you missed the analogy of resource constraints – oh well!

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      1. Oops, already got that analogy.

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      2. Peadar Ó Guilín Thursday, June 28, 2012

        Surely their main competitors are all involved in a matching set of battles on a similar number of fronts?

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  3. it looks much like the famous Mahabharat scene where ABHIMANYU got trapped in CHAKARVIYU and fight with hundreds of warriors alone………hope this time google win LOL!! :)

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  4. I agree that they’re fighting too much of the me-too battle. Glasses and self-driving cars are what I want to think about when I think of Google.

    Thanks for the post!

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    1. my pleasure and thanks for your kind words.

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  5. Om, Correct your info. Google Goggles is app, Google Glass is the new gadget they introduced.

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    1. Thanks Vikram. I did fix that. I guess, this whole name stuff is confusing at time.

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      1. Om, any particular reason to have the first 2 letters of the word Glass in a different color than the remaining 3 (see para 2) ? Guess Google would like that product to kick ass, but that’s not the motivation for the typography, is it ? :-)

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      2. Eventually Google will put Goggles App on Project Glass

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  6. Internet is just like graveyard without Google!!

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    1. Wow. I have no idea what you just said, but it did seem pretty cool. Can you elaborate?

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      1. I think the comment translates into: the internet would be useless without Google. Sorta like trying to navigate the streets of NYC, for the first time, without a map or guide: You wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the entire landscape.

        However there are other alternatives to Google so the statement is a little overblown.

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  7. Srini Kommoori Wednesday, June 27, 2012

    One thing is definite: everyone is trying to eat away other people’s market. We can argue same way with Amazon, Microsoft and Apple. Effects of technology getting commoditized.

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    1. I was also thinking of that. I’m reminded of the Amazon vs The World infographic: http://cdn.cpcstrategy.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/AmazonInfographic.png

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  8. John Proffitt Thursday, June 28, 2012

    I guess my question about Google today is, “What’s your mission?” Is it still to “organize the world’s information” or some version of that? If not, what is it? Is there a unifying vision or mission or message for the organization?

    It seems like the unifying vision now is “we want you to access the world through our tools so we can profile you and sell you to advertisers (and worse) for money.” A more positive version of that might be, “we make experiencing the Internet great” but I think empirically they haven’t gotten there, which would explain the multi-front battle (that’s likely to fail for purely human/organizational capacity reasons).

    I want to see a few Google products continue to improve — Search, Apps, Chrome OS — but the rest strike me as better collaborative zones for Google rather than competitive zones. Just imagine what Apple and Google could have done together, with better and better integration, pulling Apple design into Google engineering. Instead, Google went into competition via chasing. What about Facebook and Google coordinating? That would be powerful as well. But nope, that’s a battleground, too.

    Oh well, here we are. It’ll be interesting to watch.

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    1. Able Lawrence Thursday, June 28, 2012

      For that apple and Facebook also would want to share and collaborate on terms acceptable to Google and public. So blame them and not Google

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  9. I don’t quite agree with your analogy since these are not a winner takes all kind of wars. The market is big enough to allow at least these major players to exist. Also, In many cases, Google was forced to make a product to protect it’s search and ad business in the long term. I don’t think they would have launched Google+ if Facebook didn’t have the potential to eat some of it’s lunch. They couldn’t just let Apple walk away with the smartphone market and put their survival in their hands when it’s so easy to change the default search and maps applications as Apple has recently demonstrated with Siri and their own maps.

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    1. Market allows only one winner that takes most, and 10% for loser. Ecosystem Wars aren’t finished yet. It is again: Amiga, Macintosh, PC. Leapfrogging each other. Google has to port its apps to Glasses, while Metro tiles are Fortaleza ready.

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      1. Shameer Mulji Thursday, June 28, 2012

        I disagree. Although this obviously happened in the traditional PC space, that market was no more than a billion strong. The new mobile device (or Post-PC) space is much larger, at least three times that, if not larger. The market can definitely sustain at least three major successful platforms.

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    2. Anonymous Coward Monday, July 23, 2012

      Facebook & Apple: not quite. Google+, like many a project at Google (gmail is another example) came out of two things: many googlers being frustrated with facebook lacking some features they dearly wanted, and a need to unite several products at Google with which Google users interacted separately – this provided a bad user experience. The Moto/tablet stuff, IMO, is similarly a result of things not particularly related to Apple. Google simply needed a pool of patents to be able to protect itself in patent wars, and Moto proved to be a good opportunity to also help Google in its hardware experiments on the consumer side – like Glass, whatever Nexus-like they’ll do in the future etc.

      So you see, I wouldn’t say that opening several fronts was always just a defensive move. IMO, it’s more like those fronts appearing as a natural cause of moves on Google’s side which were determined by mostly reasons not related to the resulting battle.

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  10. Google is the king of the web. Nobody can compete with Google’s web apps, web-access OS in Android and Chrome OS, Google is the best at connecting all the worlds businesses with users of the web, which is the definition of being the best at online ads. Ergo, Google has already won all those battles you talk about. There is no hope for Apple, Microsoft, Facebook unless they can somehow do something worthwhile in the web space, which is very unlikely. Betting against the web is a failing strategy. And guys like Bret Taylor just went to Facebook to make a hundred million dollars after the IPO. Google doesn’t need to compete with certain of their star engineers being tempted by becoming multi-millionnaires for doing no work. Like Bret Taylor and the Google Wave guys going to Facebook, they didn’t actually have to do anything at Facebook to each make a big mountain of tens of millions of dollars after the IPO. Facebook is worthless yet hugely overvalued, that many people are going to loose billions of dollars on facebook stock isn’t Google’s problem.

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    1. I look at it differently …

      Silicon Valley titans Apple, Facebook and Google have recently revealed the first part of an operational business shift. Declining growth rates, reduced social networking engagement and receding confidence from Wall Street and global brands like GM have led these companies to rethink their ‘walled garden’ approach. The Big 3 can no longer continue to solely focus on honing their existing products and competencies in order to monetize their offerings, specifically in the arena of mobile.

      Recent product introductions and acquisitions reflect a shift to a ‘city state’ model: a brand-contained mobile monetization chain where all components are either developed or acquired by the brand, or resources are shared with as few partners as possible. For consumers, this approach solidifies brand preference by offering more seamless search-and-sale experiences. For Apple, Facebook and Google, vertical integration facilitates greater engineering alignment and compatibility, veils intellectual property of code and cell phone design, and protects the relationship data derived from countless search-and-sales executions.

      Solvency aside, the long-term benefits to becoming the dominant monetization path includes staving off Amazon’s march against online and brick-and-mortar retailers, and potential and continued partnerships with Microsoft. Sure to create a wider schism in the iOS-Android debate, the city state model requires securing three categories of products: Profiles, Positioning & Payment.

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      1. as far as apple is concerned, what declining growth? their walled garden approach to hardware & software has made them the largest company in the world and the most profitable in the industry.

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    2. the web is becoming siloed because of apps ! web slowly becomes b2b and apps become b2c ! also text search is dying and audio search is finally becoming mainstream – watchout for siri and audible [which do not use google]

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      1. Shameer Mulji Thursday, June 28, 2012

        You can also add the newly announced Google Now to that list.

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      2. Do you have any stats you can share that show voice search is eating into text search’s queries? I have a hard time buying that considering the amount of searches that are of a “private” (read: porn) nature.

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      3. I think that this is where Google’s traditional search/advertising business is most at risk. The use of voice obfuscates the underlying search technology, and gives a provider the ability to change the search technology if it so chooses. If refinement of the query conditions is also done via voice, there is little opportunity to display advertising.

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    3. Google will be the next Microsoft. You can tell by the comments to this article. The haters, creeps, and sickos who want Google to “win” are the majority. They want the total destruction of the two companies they hate more than anything, Apple and Facebook. It’s not so much about Google “winning” as it is about Apple and Facebook “Losing”. They would probably like Microsoft to win, since they are PC gamers, and gamers want to “win”. Apple and Facebook must go for these sick creeps. Apple and Facebook remind them of who they really are.

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      1. Anonymous Coward Monday, July 23, 2012

        Still, you have to consider one thing: Google has not shown the strong-arm type of sales politics Microsoft practiced even in the face of being split by the DoJ until now, and it still takes privacy more serious than any of its competitors, in spite of so many people whining about Google exploiting their personal data. Also, Google has not yet made any attempt to milk their developer community – which is something both Microsoft and Apple are doing heavily. And neither Microsoft nor Apple have an investment in open source as big and important as Google.

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  11. MoneyForTravel.net Thursday, June 28, 2012

    ”Why be a product manager when you can start Instagram and cash out for a cool billion?”

    I think that sums most of it up right there. There really isn’t any reason to look past that fact at all.

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  12. A war that forces innovation as its missile- both inspiring and daunting. To quote a famous book… “nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. “

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  13. motionblurred Thursday, June 28, 2012

    I think that Google will be in serious trouble eventually. They remind me too much of MS where they were focused on million different things much of which is losing money for them while their core products suffer. The companies they are battling are far more nimble, focused and have been in their field of expertise far longer than Google has.

    The greatest threat to Google is Facebook and I don’t think there’s a way that Google can beat them. Facebook will eventually challenge AdSense and reign supreme in web advertising because no one in history has come close to the amount of data Facebook has on an individual.

    Much like when Google and Apple teamed up to make MS irrelevant, Apple, Facebook and Twitter are teaming up to do the same against Google. It amazes me how easily Google is willing to follow MS off a cliff. Whether they like it or not, friendship in the Valley is a necessity and not choice.

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    1. by the time facebook can grab ad market share; google becomes a hardware+cloudservices+search+social company.

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      1. Shameer Mulji Thursday, June 28, 2012

        Google is already there. It’s just a matter of them refining their platform and focusing on growth.

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  14. I surprised about what part of the conference the media are really getting excited about. The Q device is half baked and overly expensive. The Jellybean update seems largely incremental (despite Google tacitly admitting the laggyness of their current devices by introducing their Butter initiative). Despite the promise of Glass, what they actually showed is really just a cellphone camera taped to some shades, at this point.

    The real star of all this for me was Google Now. This thing is incredible and is going largely unnoticed. THIS is what I see as the future. As much importance as Apple has always put on pairing hardware and software, this now shows the promise of adding social and AI to software. I’m so impressed by this and I think it looks far more like what the future will actually be than any Microsoft concept video… and it’s HERE! SO awesome. Google deserves a huge pat on the back for making this happen and a slight chiding for not making a bigger deal of it or presenting it better.

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    1. K.Nirmal Kumar Thursday, June 28, 2012

      Compete, collaborate, innovate fail or pass , it does not matter, BE^Do^nt be evil^Ensure common man whose count will increase in leaps and frogs, give freebees like G mail, Google drive, Blog spot etc and try to protect his security and make the world better and better.

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    2. glorified personal assistant – but done well

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    3. I think it is easy to copy. But it can be something like smart refrigerator: tells you that you need to buy x, because you last routine indicates that you are using it x/day, just when you are fed up with x. When other companies introduce something like that there will be algorithms battles: be prepared for flash traffic jams on roads nobody uses(just like flash stock crash).

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  15. Arun Prabhudesai Thursday, June 28, 2012

    Yes, Google Glass is impressive – But will it have a mass appeal and will it brings $$$ go Google.. I doubt..

    You cant doubt the fact that Google is far more innovative than Microsoft’s & Facebook’s of World. Apple is in same league but elitist… Think of people beyond Western countries. Thats where Google will play a major role..

    All the Google projects will one day culminate under one roof (aka Google+) offering us everything from Education to socializing… from entertainment to productivity…

    I cannot brush off the I/O hangover even now…

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    1. nothing revolutionary here !
      glasses and autocars are the only thing not making it a 1 trick pony.
      its just evolution/sequels.

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    2. how, exactly, is apple “elitist’? you can buy their ipods from $50, phones from $0, tablets from $400, desktops from $600, ultrabooks from $1000. hardly elitist price points.

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      1. Arun Prabhudesai Thursday, June 28, 2012

        Kibbles – Please look outside of US and outside of contracts…

        In countries where contracts are not available, like India, iPhone or iPad 4 even today costs roughly about (INR 40k) USD 700 dollars. Macbook cost (INR 80k) USD 1500 etc…

        Comparatively… top of the line spec Androids cost half of that..

        Thats what I meant… I did mention in my previous comment…please look outside US…

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  16. Hamranhansenhansen Thursday, June 28, 2012

    The glasses are not only ridiculous, they have a Big Brother overtone and remind me that Google went Wi-Fi snooping and likes to play on the creepy line.

    The problem at Google is no imagination. It is just engineers impressing other engineers. There are millions of jobs not being done, and millions of unsolved problems. I wanted to see Google do to cable company ISP’s what Apple did to phone makers: ship something that obsoletes them by 5–10 years and creates a new generation to build even bigger things on. Instead, Google has no projects, just hobbies. Uncle Apple makes something, so Google wants to play. It is brutal to watch Google stand still. All of their stuff is forgettable except maybe Android v2.3, which will be remembered like XP, purchased again and again by users on disposable hardware.

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  17. I believe Google’s “Empire” has passed its zenith and is in decline. All empires decline and you note several. You could have listed more: The rate of collapse is faster these days than in teeh time of Alexander and Octavius. Two years ago, I wrote a blog post “Has Google’s Empire Past Its Zenith?” http://www.mediabizbloggers.com/jaffer-ali/111541179.html …of course I could be wrong- Jaffer

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  18. No longer a 1 trick pony: plan B, C are solidifying for google
    1. the web is becoming siloed because of apps ! web slowly becomes b2b and apps become b2c !
    2. also text search is dying and audio search is finally becoming mainstream – watchout for siri and audible [which do not use google]
    3. because of above 2 reasons google search usage will come down.

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  19. war of ecosystems or platforms is on !

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  20. Of course it’s google vs everyone. Google has been copying everyone’s products!

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  21. everyone, not just google, is fighting on multiple fronts cos they all aim to be the same thing, the OS of your life. basically Apple, MS, Google and Facebook all have napoleonic ambitions. no empire lasts forever but Rome lasted long enough.

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  22. Name an empire that has endured forever. If we followed your analogy as the guide for our ambition, we’d all be nihilists.

    I think the more interesting questions are, what are Google and others doing, organizationally and culturally, to ensure that they will be able to continue to expand to compete on an increasing number of fronts. Are they making the right sorts of changes, or not, and why? Does the mission at Google still unify its expanding portfolio, or are they beginning to sell natural gas and cupcakes?

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    1. Maybe Google kitchen utensils and lawnmowers are next…

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  23. Andrew Ashbacher Thursday, June 28, 2012

    I’m interested in the implications of efforts such as Chrome browser on Google’s long-term survival.

    As I understand, the goal of Google Chrome browser (and maybe OS?), is not to take over the space but to inspire (or even force) innovation in this previously stagnant field.

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  24. Lionel Menchaca Jr. Thursday, June 28, 2012

    I think Google will continue to have success on the search side of things, and I bet there’s a chance they will do well in some periphery kind of stuff.

    However, the biggest problem I see for them–unlike Apple and Microsoft, Google has no foothold in the desktop realm. And Chromium won’t cut it. The combined ecosystems of smartphones + tablets + laptops + desktops are where the big winners of the future will pull ahead. Right now, Apple has a clear lead for Consumers, but it looks like Microsoft will be the big winner on the corporate side.

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    1. Lionel

      Thanks for your comment. I think they have a very good shot at doing well in Cloud (core competency is infrastructure) and they are doing well in Android but need to figure out a stronger offense strategy there. Apart from that Google Apps is another area they can do well. Rest of it, I am not sure. To your point, focus will win any day.

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      1. how do you quantify that Google is doing well in Android? the only valid metric is profit — businesses breath profit. how much profit has Google made from Android? reports are very little. that in fact they earn more profit from ads on iOS than Android.

        do you have data to suggest otherwise?

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      2. I will second Kibbles point and raise that question for every product that Google has outside of search and display ads. YouTube, Apps, etc. – where is the evidence for any of these as profitable endeavors? (I’ve seen occasional estimates for YouTube revenue but never a bottom-line number.)

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  25. I don’t think google is leaving their core search vulnerable. I recently saw a video from one of their top search guys and they are innovating a LOT when it comes to search. They’re trying to make it more contextual, just like our brains work. So that when you have phrases that you’re searching for the relevance of your results are improved a hundredfold. When this is polished and released I think that will be the biggest improvement search has seen since, well Google.

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  26. IMO, I don’t think Google Search is vulnerable. As a matter of fact, I think it’s even strengthened. Google may be a Search and Advertising Company, but what exactly is being searched and advertised? The answer to that is: Information. Not only are their content providers on the net to provide that information, but Google has created tools making the end user the provider of content information as well. With what i saw yesterday, in regards to Jelly Bean, I don’t think Google has ignored Search at all. As a matter of fact, I think they enhanced it.

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  27. yahoo too plodding in embracing search ads? Hardly. People forget that yhoo bought Overture the inventor of search ads. Google eventually had to pay yahoo for patent infringement. But google’s search was much better. That’s why they won in search ads.

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  28. Tom Marthaler Thursday, June 28, 2012

    You should also mention Google Hangouts which a direct competitor to Skype, purchased by Microsoft.

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  29. Sean Ammirati Thursday, June 28, 2012

    Really insightful post on the overall tech landscape. I do suspect some of this goes back to the point of the Web 2.0 Summit Map – http://map.web2summit.com/#t However, it is sobering as you’ve listed it company / product by company / product for Google.

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  30. I think following is a better way to organize your list as a war map:

    Nexus/Android: Apple iPhone/iPad, MS Windows 8/Surface, Amazon’s Kindle Fire/Fork

    TV: Apple TV

    Maps: Apple Maps

    Wallet/Play: Apple iTunes platform, Amazon payment system, Paypal, Square

    Books/Music/Media: Apple iTunes/iBooks, Amazon Music/Books/Media

    Chrome OS: MS OS

    Apps: MS Office Apps

    Cloud: MS Azure, Amazon Web Services

    Drive: iCloud, MS Skydrive, DropBox

    Search: MS Bing, Facebook Social Discovery?!, Twitter?!

    Plus: Facebook, Twitter

    Messaging: Facebook Messaging

    Picasa: Facebook Photos, Yahoo Flickr

    Ad Platform: Facebook Ad Platform

    Local: Yelp

    YouTube: Hulu, etc.

    Gmail: Yahoo Mail!! ;)

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  31. I think more accurate to say there is an “ecosystem war” across hardware, operating systems, browsers, apps and services, among the companies discussed. Different companies coming at from different strengths, but the two fields of combat are in common a) consumer and b) enterprise arenas.

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  32. Ranjanabh Bahukhandi Thursday, June 28, 2012

    Om,

    Thank you for the well worded article. It brings out the salient features of not only Google’s strategy but most of the blue-chip players in the, let’s say, “content-delivery-to-end-user” model.

    Though I do agree w/ your premise, however I think the problem isn’t only about the “me-to” philosophy but the fact that most of these companies are reactive to the leaders (mostly Apple) as opposed to being proactive (Google/Microsoft).

    There’s a lot of truth in your argument of stretching oneself very thin, just to stay alive. However I do believe that one must do what it takes to stay relevant in this industry. As you would know (more than many others) it moves at warp speed and can be very unforgiving. And in the process I guess one does have to mold and adapt to be consistent w/ what’s expected of them.

    Hardware isn’t easy to do and it’s an iterative process. At the end of the day, Apple is an hardware company and they have an (draconian) grasp on their manufacturing, SCM and marketing cycle and people don’t seem to appreciate it much, but all of this plays an equally important role in shipping out an device to the end user. I feel what Google is doing w/ it’s Android ecosystem is healthy and it “could” be in a better direction. They shouldn’t dabble much w/ Nexus Q-esque kind of devices.

    However, having had said that, I think what they are doing has a more hope than despair. They are trying to centralize their Google Play store and making it the nerve center of the content delivery for Android users. And I think that does need a second look. Any iOS device is sold @ at least 2x the cost it takes to make these devices. The Kindle Fire, is sold @ a manufacturing loss because Bezos has pinned it’s hoped in recovering the lost ($2-3) from the added Amazon Prime subscriptions. They key usage of any tablet, is the content availability and distribution for their users. Apple has aced it, Amazon started off w/ a bang and as you rightly pointed out, for Google it’s a trench warfare. But I think they can do it and do it right. W/ rapid adoption of Android – I think they have a shot at getting it right. They have a chance to do something unique, by keeping the user at the center of it’s ambitions/products. They always have (tried to at at least).

    Google has a lot of ground to cover and I think more w/ the major publishing and production houses to uproot the likes of Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Hulu. But if they play it right, I believe they can. They have a shot at fixing Android for good.

    NOW, coming to everything else you said – about fighting things they shouldn’t care too much about. I agree cent percent!

    > They should call it quits w/ Amazon on the EC3/AWS front. Amazon has a reputation that is has rightly earned.
    > Chrome OS – I don’t know what on God’s green earth are they are achieve w/ this. Unless they have an idea to mesh w/ Android sometime in the future, I’m at loss how this benefits them and the user when it comes it unique offerings.
    > Facebook – I can understand why this is important. Facebook has something which Google doesn’t have in totality, a complete view of a user and their likes/dislikes/preferences/locations/ etc. I mean it’s a much holistic grasp of what a user means to them. So that helps them to target their adds better and makes it more attractive for the customer.

    They should focus on things which is going to matter in the long term from an Android p.o.v. They need this second awakening, they just can’t a one trick pony w/ search along.

    Interested to hear your thoughts.

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    1. Ranjanabh

      Thanks for a great comment. I will need to think and respond.

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  33. The only company absent from my daily use is Apple. Apple stuff is just so overpriced.

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    1. For me, it’s Google. I no longer use any of their services or products.

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      1. Are you sure you’re no longer using any Google service or product? :)

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  34. James Stratford Thursday, June 28, 2012

    A very interesting point, although as has been pointed out Apple and Microsoft also face a fight on multiple fronts. What would concern me about Google’s plight is that aside from advertising, Google has never really made any money with its vast array of weird and wonderful projects. It seems like a group of nerds that made billions with a banal advertising model and want to use that money to try to make just about anything they think is cool despite failure after failure.

    How much money has Android made them? YouTube (which I believe has not been improved by its acquisition one little bit)? Google Docs? The list goes on. What is the monetary strategy behind these initiatives? Googlites get angry when you ask these questions as if it is somehow disgusting to talk about money, like Google is trying to change the world for altruistic reasons. These questions matter because if you aren’t making money, you aren’t breathing as a company and your products don’t have a future.

    I can’t quite understand why so many commenters hope Google ‘wins’? In a world where Google has won, everything you ever use will have advertisements, ever-changing UIs and privacy concerns on a daily basis. As the axiom goes, you either buy a product, or you are the product. I fear if Google succeeds in finding dominance one day, a heavy price might be paid for the naivety of those that let it happen.

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  35. Google has clearly showed that it not only wants to better technology, especially as it applies to the Internet/Cloud/search and mobile computing/phones/entertainment, but that it can do so by creating revolutionary products and services, the majority of them at not cost. As Om says, they are doing it on many fronts, and winning on the majority of those fronts, bringing productivity and quality to new levels of achievement. Unfortunately, I find that the bigger and better Google gets, the less I want to use their services and products. I’ve already gotten rid of my Gmail account, and stopped using Google search. The Google has a never-ending appetite, and I don’t want to feed it any longer . . .

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  36. I don’t like the idea of any one company dominate any sphere, no matter how good are its products and services. I gave up on using any Google item years ago; judging by what I see here, I’m glad I did.

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  37. It’s amazing how much negativity there is towards Google when 1) Android has by far the leading market share in smart phones, 2) Google search looks like an untouchable monopoly and is probably the best business in the world, 3) YouTube dominates online video. Otherwise, they’ve just introduced a number of different new products, some of which will fail, some of which will have moderate success, etc. It’s still an incredibly profitable company growing 25% – what’s the problem?!! As an aside, Siri doesn’t work and is a piece of crap.

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  38. I have always like your comments and analysis but I’m not sure if resource constraints and the “human cost of these battles” is an appropriate analogy simply because, as you stated, of the necessities of these “battles” and the very nature of these battles.
    Google, Apple, and Microsoft (and maybe Amazon) are fighting to win the entire digital ecosystem that will dominate consumers’ digital lifestyles. Except for self-driving cars (which will be the frontier after the digital home), most of the products/services that Google offers are complementary to their goal of being the center of consumers’ digital lifestyles. The very same goal that Apple and Microsoft are engaged in. Rome, Napoleonic Wars, and Ottoman Empire attempted to expand simply for the sake of expansion and/or for the glory of their respective empire.
    If Google, Microsoft, and Apple are not engaged in these battles, how will they unified all their different services/products to consumers? Also, each “battle” that a company wins allows it to leverage the win to their overall goal. For instance, if Google Drive wins the “battle”, that should increase usage of Google Docs, decreasing the attraction of Microsoft’s Skydrive and Office. In contrast, in physical wars, each battle won usually resulted in severe casualties and the ramifications of assimilating new territories and imposing governance.
    Still, it is a tightrope that these big 3 companies need to maneuver in order to win the coveted spot of being the center of people’s digital lifestyles.

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  39. The thing that’s not mentioned in this article is that although Google seems to be trying to compete in all aspects of the technological spectrum, all their services are connected to each other for a complete ecosystem, for instance android is heavily integrated with all those mentioned services and the other way around, so the more android activations, the more potential consumers and with android at 1 million activations a day and still growing Google is in a real good spot

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  40. you have missed the apple siri vs google now/majel

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  41. Good One Malik… Google is indeed fighting too many people.. You win some u Lose some, but what matters is hope your profit out weights your loss

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  42. Really you need to say Google invented this Glass thing? In 2009 Microsoft PDC I already saw a girl wearing something simiar which runs Windows CE and I’m sure that wasn’t built in 2009 and costs $1,500+. Come on, is this going to be another Apple invented GUI stuff?!

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  43. Sachin Gupta Friday, June 29, 2012

    Very soon Google will enter in Corporate/Enterprise World with its mail and Google +. g+ is best collaboration tool one can have. This will be a huge Game changer for Google. Can you imagine people using gmail instead of outlook…

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    1. Sachin

      They already have entered the enterprise world with Chrome, Google Apps and now the Google cloud.

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  44. You missed one thing. Google TV is fighting Microsoft XBox. If I understand numbers correctly Google is loosing.

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  45. Google will win. Better API, open platform. Developers drive the market.

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  46. Couldn’t you say the exact same thing about Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple right now? Everyone’s doing clouds, everyone’s doing tablets, everyone’s doing digital media.

    At least Google is in this fray because they felt they had something to add and not because they think search and gmail are going away. Everyone else is acting defensively.

    Especially Amazon. If anyone has a Napoleon complex, it’s Amazon.

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  47. This article is right on target. I was delighted with quality of Google Search when it went out. Google Maps are also very useful. YouTube too.

    But author is right, Google spreads its power and intelligence onto too many fronts, where company isn’t at home

    Better tactics would be to carefully watch promising startups and quietly buy a stake before those startups become too expensive. It would leave Google intact and immune on failures which deteiorate its value. It is realistic to expect that sooner or later Google Search and Adwords will become obsolete, Paradigm Shift will come pretty soon. If Google doesn’t collect a bunch of promising startups until then, it may be in big trouble

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  48. Its all about how you can make money! The comparison with Napoleon seems out of stretch to me.

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  49. Jared Parmenter Monday, July 2, 2012

    Great article, as usual! I’d add two major items to the list of battles Google is entrenched in:
    Google’s Chrome Browser vs. Safari (Apple)
    Google Chrome Browser vs. Internet Explorer (Microsoft)

    The browser wars seem to be even more volatile than the OS wars and hardware wars, given how fast a broken software update or new feature can differentiate between them, and how tumultuous the user adoption curves have been over the past two years.

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    1. Jared

      Thanks for the reminder on the browser wars. I am bummed that i totally missed this one. You are right – browser – Safari, IE and Mozilla and winning.

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  50. There is a religious myth that Google = Good and Microsoft = Evil. Google is just as intent on world domination – and many times more selfish and willing to use and trample people. In fact, only Bill Gates donated all his money to charity. Not Larry, Sergei, Ellison, McNealy etc. Google rode on the shoulders of countless open source community programmers to achieve its ends – without paying them a penny. Java (android), Linux, Javascript and so on…

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  51. blessedgeek Sunday, July 8, 2012

    This isn’t about Google wanting to take over the world, is it?

    I respect Google in many ways. I think their philosophy is to level the playing field so that they could excel on it. Whereas, Apple and Microsoft is about their taking over the world and controlling it. OTOH, Yahoo is about how little can we give the user and scam them as much as possible to gain a quick buck.

    This platform battle is not restricted to the computing realm. There is a battle going on between IBM, Taiwan Semiconductor, etc over the semiconductor modular platform. Between Texas Instr, IBM, etc over analogue modular platform.

    There is a competition among bio-technology companies over DNA/molecular modules platform. And one day, predictably, Google and Microsoft will become major players in DNA/molecular modular platforms.

    As manufacturing becomes more streamlined – so too would manufacturing offer competing standardized platforms on design, workflow, down to manufacturing processes.

    And we need companies like Google which seeks to do the lesser evil of taking control so that no one platform is actually in control. We also need companies like Google to remove from existence companies like Yahoo or AOL whose sole purpose in life is the greed to irresponsibly suck the life out of technology.

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  52. i think Google should focus! Focus on creating awesome products like Goggles, focus on their core strength and let other companies rule some market.

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