Google's Next Step Is Not Search

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Google is a fascinating brand, company and technology developer. Here are some random (and personal) thoughts about where Google might be going…

In the nineties I helped one of the first search engines build their sales and advertising channels. At the time, the only other major search engines were Yahoo!, Microsoft and AOL. They were less like search engines as we know them today, and much more like directories to navigate through the many websites that were online and being added every single day as people rushed to this new media channel. I remember seeing Google for the first time a couple of years after the term, "search engine" had entered most of our vernacular. My first thought was, "how are they going to make any money?" The truth is, I wasn’t the only one thinking like this. At that time, it wasn’t uncommon for both Sergey Brin and Larry Page to say the same thing. When asked how Google would make money, the common response from the Google founders would be something like, "right now, we’re focusing on how to make everything much easier to find online. In doing so, we believe that we’ll uncover a revenue model at some point." And while that is a simple paraphrase of the many quotes that they put out there during those initial days, the message was crystal clear: they were focused on getting the product right and making it perfect for those using it.

Pushing beyond search.

It’s both funny and strange to think of Google as just a search engine anymore. They do everything from email and maps to collaborative document development and media sales (their full product offering is both staggering and impressive). They push the envelope with newer platforms like Google Wave (which they hope is the next evolution of email or online communication) and they’ve even entered into the web browser wars with Chrome. Through it all, there has always been conversation, rumours and more about whether or not Google was/is developing their own operating system for computers.

And then, there’s this Android thing.

There was recently two very telling articles in Silicon Alley Insider. One was titled, Google’s Android Ready To Explode Past The iPhone (October 16th, 2009) and the other, Google Android Is Getting Huge (October 8th, 2009). Here’s one quote from the latter article that brought me right back to the first feelings I had about Google when it launched as a simple search engine:

"What’s changed? Over the past few months, several phone makers and mobile operators have announced their support for Android phones, many of which are beginning to ship. None of this means Android will necessarily be a big commercial success, but it’s a good start. (And yes, a slow start. But building gadgets is not fast.)"

It’s easy to imagine a world where Android would account for 60% of Google’s revenue, attention and focus in the not-so-distant future.

It’s a dramatic statement, but think about it this way: Google has dominance in the traditional Internet search space, then in May 2009, The Slate‘s The Big Money site reported that,"97.5% of all mobile searches are done on Google." Where was all the hoopla, celebration and noise about this? Much like Google in 2000, they are just plodding along and building it up. They are closing more and more mobile deals with handset manufacturers, carriers and more. Most of these mobile companies have little to no choice but to align themselves with Google as they continue to battle the dominance of both the iPhone and BlackBerry. There’s no doubt that there are many other mobile operating systems that still dominate over Google’s Android, but that was also the case when they were a simple search engine start-up as well.

Google is focused on mobile… not on search.

Maybe not entirely right now… but it is slowly happening in front of our eyes. They’re not looking at the next generation of operating systems and web browsers, they’re looking at how more and more of us are transitioning to smartphones, netbooks and the like, and they are not-so-quietly preparing to dominate the mobile landscape much in the same way they dominate the search landscape.

What’s the big difference/deal? 

If you think search made them incredibly wealthy and powerful, the size of the mobile market and landscape going forward is going to make search seem small and inconsequential.

What do you think?


  1. Mitch again proves he is a forward thinking, dreamer & futurist, simultaneously. Mobile, mobilty, user friendly must have devices & apps may well prove to be the next Tsunami tech wave addiction.
    Curious to watch if the domain suffix .mobi will take off in popularity use much more than presently seen.

  2. One thing to note on the mobile platform is that I think it may be a bit of a Trojan horse with regards to search. Mobile searches on Google were up 30 percent from the second quarter and with Android OS now on 12 phones in 32 countries you can see the reach already getting out there. Google wants to provide a high end OS to multiple handset manufactures in many countries for free? Most likely not, and I believe that search is what they want to own and the OS it the method.
    The new Droid phone from Verizon was demo’d yesterday and from the reviews that I have read maybe the first real threat to the iPhone with great hardware and v2.0 on the Android OS. This means a potential big jump in market share of Android handsets in 2010. We know Motorola can do it when they really want to…remember the Razor?
    Microsoft can’t even get the mobile os right let alone begin to focus on mobile search. I think that Google will do what Google does best with regards to mobile and that is on the foundation of search….the real money maker. Well now that I think of it you could apply the same theory to Chrome both the browser and the OS as they are both search-centric in design…hmmm.

  3. Google’s market dominance picked up speed when a user first said “Google it” and not “look it up in a search engine.” Computer users love to hate Microsoft for their iron-handed market dominance, when all the while, Google has been chipping away steadily and quietly, securing a market share that Microsoft will soon envy, if they don’t already.

  4. I agree with JP. Information is what everyone wants. Google has done an incredible job in how we search, find and access information. What has made the iPhone so valuable is the ease of accessing, organizing, and sharing information (your own and the world’s) on a mobile device. With the iPhone you have access to the world (wherever we go) on a handheld – with an intuitive interface. Google, possibly, wants the same. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

  5. If you don’t think Google will make a difference in the footprint for the basic platform for future development for mobile, PC’s and even appliances, you are maybe not to close to technology world.
    Being in this market since the last 35 years, it’s obvious Google will have a real impact (it’s already the case) and will be the trigger to encourage other bright people to do so. With its huge capacity and capability to go faster than the rest of the world is, without any doubt, a great advantage, but watch the wizs from IT word coming in.
    Anyway, whoever will come first the future is already aiming at the mobile device, but the second wave pushing back the PC to disnosaure as the typewriter went not so far ago may come from voice recognition and when this technology will be in perfect running, let’s see what’s gone happen to the finger punching device as the actual mobile device !

  6. The mobile game is a sleeping dragon resting upon a fabulous treasure, no doubt about that! But it can take a while before the beast is fully awake… For sure Google’s predictive data will guide them – with at least 95% accuracy – towards finding the best way to advertise in near-future / future mobile search engines.
    Developing Android was critical to counter the mobile O/S deficiencies resulting from the handset industry lack of vision, and Apple’s overwhelming foresight!
    Android will surprise us, simply by being the only innovative force capable of challenging Apple dominance of the Mobile UX. And perhaps by being the missing link between mobile e-commerce and mobile advertising.

  7. The iPhone clones being manufactured in China that run Android will be HUGE! It is strange that an iPhone clone will likely be the thing that makes Android 🙂

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