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July 06, 2011

The Tank That is Google

When we examine the role large technology companies are playing in the world today, it’s important to see how connected they all are. Microsoft makes Office for Mac, Apple’s iOS still uses Google for searches (though they allow you to choose other services), and even Google is making apps for iOS before they are released on Android (Disco). But for all the cross platform love, there is also intense competition. When discussing tension between Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and Google, Google comes out looking very aggressive:

Facebook’s Biggest Competitor: Google

With the rise of Google+, they are the only real alternative social network. People may argue twitter is a competitor, but Facebook serves a different need. While twitter is about commentating and sharing on a global scale (for most people anyway), Facebook is closely tied to people you already know. Google+ has the potential to take market share away in the more tech savvy crowd…and possibly others if the “networking” effect catches on.

Apple’s Biggest Competitor: Google

Many will argue that Apple, with its established line of laptops and desktops running Mac OSX, is competing with Microsoft. The reality is the PC wars ended decades ago and Apple is a mobile company now. If you look at what drove the company from near bankruptcy to the powerhouse it is today, the real success has come from all its “Post-PC” products.

The only other player in mobile with substantial market share other than iOS is Android, hence the rivalry. What started as a competition over smartphones has crossed over into tablets, and with the release of Google Books, Google Music, and Google Videos, has spread to iTunes as well.

Microsoft’s Biggest Competitor: Google

Yet again people may claim that Microsoft is still at war with Apple but this is far from their biggest problem. Microsoft gets almost all its revenue and profit from 2 products: Windows and Office. While this software has a huge footprint in the consumer market, where it really thrives is businesses (specifically Enterprise). Google has released a direct competitor to Microsoft’s Office products with Google Apps and with the recent introduction of Chrome OS (and the inclusion of a $20/month rental program for laptops) it is trying to prove Windows is obsolete as well. Betting on the Cloud, Google is trying to convince consumers that the whole concept of a traditional operating system needs to be rethought.

Personal note: I haven’t used Microsoft Office for school in years. Google Docs has become my go to for all things academic.

Google’s Biggest Competitor

So this leaves the all important question: Who is Google’s biggest competitor? It is easiest to answer when considering where Google makes money. 99% of their revenue comes from advertising. If someone wants to understand Google’s business model, they must accept one ultimate truth from the start: Everything Google does, it does to protect its share of the online advertising market.

They purchased Android sensing mobile search would take off. They created Chrome OS and the Chrome browser so people would use the Omnibox (the URL bar at the top of Chrome that can be used for search) for searches. They made Gmail, Google docs, Maps, and all their other free products for one purpose: keep people using Google.

Now that we have established what Google is protecting, their biggest threat is obvious: Facebook. Sure Microsoft has unveiled a search engine rival, Bing, but its market share is not endangering Google at this point in time. What scares the folks up in Mountain View is the amount of time people are spending on Facebook. When users are browsing their friends photos, status updates, and relationship status’ for 30+ minutes a day, that’s 30 minutes they’re not searching.

Even if they are searching, it’s being done more and more on Facebook as well. Social discovery, or clicking on links that are “liked” by a friend, is growing rapidly. Google+ wasn’t made because Google wanted to enter the social market; it was made because Google HAS to enter the social market. It is obvious that people’s web experience is not as unique and individual as it used to be. It’s based on interaction with friends and relatives and is increasingly about discussion.

This is the reason I find it funny people are saying Google+ will fail like Buzz and Wave, because that’s not an option. Google realizes that if “plus” fails, they fail as a company. I’m willing to bet the world’s most important internet company (debatable I know) isn’t going to sit by and watch as Zuckerberg’s platform pushes them down the path of Yahoo. Google has a lot of fronts to be fighting on, but social is one where they’re all-in.