Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
October 18, 2009 2:11 PM

Google's Next Step Is Not Search

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?

By Mitch Joel