I attended Google’s annual atmosphere road show recently, an event aimed at presenting solutions for business customers. The main points I took away were:
Google’s “mosaic” approach to portfolio development offers tremendous potential. Google has comprehensive offerings covering communications and collaboration solutions (Gmail, Google Plus), contextualized services (Maps, Compute Engine), application development (App Engine), discovery and archiving (Search, Vault), and access tools to information and entertainment (Nexus range, Chromebook/Chromebox).
Google’s approach to innovation sets an industry benchmark. Google is going for 10x innovation, rather than the typical industry approach of pursuing 10% incremental improvements. Compared with its peers, this “moonshot” approach is unorthodox. However, moonshot innovation constitutes a cornerstone of Google’s competitive advantage. It requires Google’s team to think outside established norms. One part of its innovation drive encourages staff to spend 20% of their work time outside their day-to-day tasks. Google is a rare species of company in that it does not see failure if experiments don’t work out. Google cuts the losses, looks at the lessons learned — and employees move on to new projects.
Today’s new details on Windows 8.1 show that Microsoft is on track for updating Windows annually, that they’re engaged in significant product improvements and they are listening to market feedback. There were a ton of improvements and new built-in apps. Among all the details, three were the most significant to advancing Windows:
· Smart Search. By combining Bing’s web search with search across my devices and Skydrive, search becomes more relevant and personal. We’ll be watching to see how third-party developers can use this and where Microsoft goes with it. Very interesting.
· Making Windows desktop modern and more synergistic. The tweaks to allow the desktop background underneath the Start Screen and the return of the Start button make it feel a little less like I’m running two PCs in one, but the difference is still jarring.
Maps are only growing in importance as they become the primary portal on mobile phones for a growing list of information and services. As Apple showed us last year, it's critical to own maps - and to do maps well, particularly as a growing percentage of time is spent discovering, accessing, and engaging content within maps. With that said, it's not immediately clear to me what justifies a $1B+ (reported) price tag for Google’s acquisition of Waze, but I'll assume they did great due diligence or offered a high price to get a deal done.
For instance, many companies do acquisitions for audience, but Google's audience - even just on Android or Google Maps is substantial. Waze's website says 30M users; other sources say 50M. Apparently, engagement among users is high ... but is it well distributed? Are there enough active users in each market for the same excellent experience?
However, Waze does add new features that Google Maps doesn't already have e.g., the ability of users to report traffic issues, police cameras, broken down vehicles - you name it. Layering user-generated content into maps in real time in a way that makes sense and is useful to everyone at that place at that moment is not typical. Mobile needs to be highly contextual in ways people are beginning to understand, but are really struggling to implement well. It also increases speed to market if Google/Android team were otherwise developing this on their own.
With maps integrated into every retail, travel, banking, insurance, (ok go down the list) app on your phone, I don’t think any company can have too much map technology, or too many engineers/developers for maps and navigation technology.