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Google's next act: Diversify and conquer

Serdar Yegulalp | May 21, 2013
Center stage at this year's Google I/O was a company honing its vision for a future beyond search

But not everyone thinks that Google killing services is bad news. WordStream's Pan believes the cleanups are "a great thing [because it means] existing core products get more engineers or past projects get a breath of new life."

"When Eric Schmidt came to Google," Pan recalls, "there were numerous moonshot projects aimed to change the world which lacked focus or cohesive strategy. What Eric Schmidt did by retiring projects was free up engineering resources for things that could build upon one another. Google Wave/Buzz may've died, but it came back as Google+. Google Notebook became Google Docs. Larry Page is doing the same thing, requiring new Google projects to have a social element to them."

Forrester's VanBoskirk sees a parallel here with Yahoo, the closest thing Google has had to competition in many respects. "Yahoo had so many disparate products for so long it lost its brand identity over time. Even now, under new leadership it isn't really clear what [Yahoo] is or is trying to be," VanBoskirk says. "I think perhaps Google (and other media companies) watched this and learned to consolidate ancillary services which weren't overtly contributing to the primary corporate strategy."

BetterCloud's Politis sees Google's close-and-refocus strategy as part of a larger push to make Google+ the true center of user activity with Google: "You can already see evidence of this in nearly every category: Google Authorship, heavy integration with Glass, Google+ comment integration with Blogger, Google+ sign-in, Local, etc."

To Politis, this is how Google+ will stand out from competing social networks -- by being "at the center of your life" with all of Google's services at one's disposal: Gmail, Google Apps, Drive, and so on. "Google is just looking for products that have the potential to reach a billion users," Politis says. "Their business is at such a huge scale now, what's the purpose of keeping something that doesn't have the potential to do that?"

What about Chromebook or Chrome OS, which many analysts see as outliers in the Google ecosystem? Politis doesn't agree. "[Chromebook/Chrome OS] fits in with Google's overall worldview -- everything should exist in the browser," Politis says. "This goes hand in hand with Google Apps, Gmail, Drive, Search. Google is a company 'born of a digital environment' and nothing displays this better than Chrome OS."

Politis himself uses a Chromebook Pixel "every single day" and claims he is able to do all his work in the browser. "When I don't have Internet access (something that's increasingly rare), there's Gmail and Drive offline."

Google App Engine and Google Compute Engine: An uphill battle worth fightingLess visible to the consumer, but crucial to developers and businesses, are Google's cloud services offerings. Google Compute Engine and Google App Engine -- IaaS (infrastructure as a service) and PaaS (platform as a service) offerings, respectively -- compete in a crowded market that includes Microsoft, Amazon, HP, and others. Here, Google must play catch-up against established competitors, as well as relative newcomers with captive markets. As such, to gain a foothold, it is crucial for Google to innovate -- all the more so, given that they are among the few services Google sells directly to users, without monetizing them through ads or search.


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