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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

One way Google could differentiate its IaaS and PaaS offerings would be through simplicity.

"Google may finally find a way to penetrate the large enterprise market that has largely pushed back on the use of public IaaS" by making Google Compute Engine manifestly simpler than the competition, said InfoWorld cloud computing blogger David S. Linthicum, a year ago.

While Google may not have created a true turnkey IaaS, it is inching closer to this on multiple fronts by offering products with more granularity than just instance sizes. Consider App Engine, which allows customers to run apps in Python or Java without managing an actual server or cloud. At Google I/O this past week, Google added beta support for Google's own Go language and PHP, one of the most widely used languages on the Web. Most PaaS vendors focus squarely on a specific programming language.

Such a move hints at how Google can compete aggressively: By giving its customers as much or as little of the stack as they need, and by giving them kinds of granularity that don't exist elsewhere.

Motorola: The verdict's still outYet another Google move that has been widely scrutinized, and has yet to bear real fruit, is Google's acquisition of Motorola Mobility.

The conventional wisdom has been that the acquisition was meant to give Google access to Motorola Mobility's patent portfolio -- or to give Motorola Mobility access to Google's legal muscle, for the sake of settling patent suits brought on by Apple and Microsoft. Not that this has stopped the European Commission from issuing a preliminary antitrust ruling against Motorola Mobility over the abuse of standard-essential patents for cellular technology. All the other tangible signs of the acquisition so far have been negative, including the death of Motorola's mobile-security subdivision 3LM, itself an acquisition (one founded, ironically enough, by an ex-Google employee).

BetterCloud's Politis believes Google's snapping up Motorola "was done more in an effort to give them the ability to build hardware should they choose to do so." (The long-rumored Motorola "X Phone" is allegedly going to be the fruits of such a joint Google-Motorola venture.) "To me it seems that Google is really emphasizing operating systems -- Android and Chrome OS."

This way, even if the devices themselves tank in the marketplace or fall victim to antitrust politicking, it won't matter as much. "The software angle has a much broader reach than hardware alone," says Politis. "I think [Google's] core strategy is to gain the ability to power other companies' devices" -- which Google can already lay a good deal of claim to having done.

Another hint of how Google could be approaching hardware partnerships came at Google I/O with the unveiling of an edition of the Samsung Galaxy S 4 with a stock Android 4.2 "Jelly Bean" install rather than Samsung's own version -- albeit at $649, a $50 markup over Samsung's own prices. Units sold this way could allow Google to roll out updates faster, provided consumers pay the premium for it.


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