5.06.2007

Google in 3 years

Steve Newcomb - Powerset - posted an interesting question on LinkedIn's Q&A service:

What are your predictions for Google over the next 3 years. How will people perceive Google? How will their search engine look? Where will Google's stock be in 3 years? what are your top 10 predictions.


The answers are pretty interesting ...
  • Top brand, advertising co., and personalized media portal.
  • Stock over $800;used by more than 10 million small businesses.
  • Shares will go up but not by a lot. Growth steady, not enormous, continue to have legal problems.
  • Sued for anti-trust. Acquisitions subject to FTC scrutiny. >90% market share int the US search market.
  • Amazing at finding new avenues for generating revenue via ad placement, continue to be 'so-so' at building new products and technology.
  • Become the world's leading source of News, Information and Social Commentary.
  • Will continue turning into corporate culture shop; become somewhat regulated; taking market share from *sloppy* competitors; into the telco business
  • Into DVR software, buying TiVo and offering the OS free of charge; "push" individualized video ads into TV programs
  • Into the billboard business
  • Will buy Neilsen/NetRatings
  • More projects with Apple
  • Monetize more of their services
  • Collaborate more than compete with other search engines
  • Merging blogging, office suites, and advertising using google earth/sketchup.

In spite of how successful a consumer brand and advertising play, there are days I still believe Google would be into grid computing if a sustainable business model emerged. Below is a note I sent to colleagues over 2 years ago, after IAC acquired Ask. Since then, Google acquired a whole lot of black fiber around the country, launched Google Apps, and Amazon deployed their S3 architecture, Mechanical Turk and Elastic Compute Cloud.

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2008 [maybe more like 2010], SEARCH is the Internet OS … what if …

It’s 2005; we are competing against Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, IAC, Amazon’s A9, right? We compete for eye-balls, that’s how we all make money today. This said, personal technology categories, from desktop operating systems to browsers and productivity apps have traditionally had enough room for two leaders and a third rotating player.

In 2008, Search is the OS enabling content applications to deliver media and information-related consumer experiences; think of the search ecosystem as a 3-layer value chain:

1. Media: everything content related, wherever it is.

2. Content applications: Web browsers, media players, communication applications, ...

3. Search as the information OS: crawling, indexing, computational linguistic, device access management...

Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! think of Search as the Internet OS platform, focused on developing, surfacing, and documenting APIs, inviting developers to contribute value-add services legitimizing and extending their reach.

Google and Microsoft own the Search OS layer

Today [2005], Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, IAC/Ask Jeeves, A9 are stretching to cover the broad Search spectrum from exposing APIs to delivering the content experience. That might not prevail in the future. I don't subscribe so much with some analysts' belief that Google will remain a Media company. Google’s capital expenditures to develop the biggest data center on earth puts them on a collision course with Microsoft, not with Yahoo! Google’s top management layer is made up of technologists, not media folks as is the case at Yahoo! I am not making this up, read it from smarter people who know how to count. The Search Appliance (read potential Network OS) is still a priority at Google.

Here is the “if ...”

Google could very well only be in consumer traffic and advertising businesses because of short term necessities until a viable grid computing business model emerges. Now, if Google pulls back to focus on Search as the OS and grid computing services to become the “Intel Inside” brand not actually directly facing consumers nor advertisers, you can bet Microsoft will be tempted to do the same. Remember the browser race? Once the Netscape threat was put out, Microsoft pretty much stopped innovating with IE. It’s 2008, Google and Microsoft are leveraging large investments in research & development and own Search as an OS and touch on content applications mostly to feed the underlying infrastructure. AOL, Yahoo!, IAC, and Amazon are consumer facing media and services companies, involved to some extent at the content application layer level, along with a sea of smaller third party developers.

Still 2008, the search ecosystem is much more fragmented. Crawling, indexing, computational linguistic and managing consumer media businesses definitely don’t require the same core competencies. Differentiating the content experience, adding value around algorithmic results still means we have to apply technology to make sense of user intent, content, and presentation. Search technology can help, but it’s not such a binary world where you either do or don’t own it all.

And of course, anything can and will happen; that’s a safe bet.

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