On the heels of some positive court decisions earlier this year, Google today announced that they're changing their keyword bidding policies in Europe to match those already in place in the US, the UK, and elsewhere. Most notably, this means European marketers will now be able to display paid listings to users searching for other companies' trademarks. There's lots of coverage around, including:
Obviously, this isn't great news for brands. That's why Louis Vuitton and others were fighting against these policies in court; they've worked hard to build brand recognition and credibility and to drive the consumer desire that leads to a Web search -- and they feel as if Google is making money by selling those consumers to other marketers at the last moment.
But brands don't always lose. Sometimes those other marketers will be competitors, of course -- but sometimes they'll be the channel partners of the brands being searched for. Sony, for instance, shouldn't have any problem with Amazon.com and other retailers advertising Sony's digital cameras when consumers search for those cameras by name. For the retailers, then, this decision is a win: They have more freedom than before to target in-market buyers, no matter the brand for which they're searching.
Google announced yesterday that it is buying ITA Software for $700 million. ITA does two main things: airline eCommerce and reservations management solutions and a cross-airline flight comparison tool called QPX, used by most of the major travel comparison Web sites including Kayak, Orbitz, and Microsoft Bing.
Google purchased it for the QPX product in a classic example of buying technology instead of either building it in-house or licensing it.
Today, Bing, Microsoft’s search offering, offers a solutionthat is based on QPX to help customers search for flight information on the Bing Web site. Google has nothing comparable; instead, they direct customers to other travel specific sites (see the screenshots below).
Google is focused on the goal of staying at least half a step ahead of Microsoft in all aspects of search technology; in order to stay ahead of Microsoft in this area, Google had three major options: 1) License the technology; 2) Build it themselves; 3) Buy ITA.
Licensing the technology would mean that Google would end up with a solution equivalent to Microsoft’s and not as robust as specialized Web sites like Kayak. Building the technology would take several years, allowing Microsoft and other competitors to continue to differentiate themselves and pull ahead.
This left the acquisition as the only viable path to regaining leadership in this area, while at the same time placing Microsoft in the awkward position of relying on Google-owned technology as the backend for one of their major search features.
It has only been a few weeks since Google announced it would create a brave, new world with its Google TV platform. In all the reactions and the commentary, I have been amazed at how little people understand what's really going on here. Let me summarize: Google TV is a bigger deal than you think. In fact, it is so big that I scrapped the blog post I drafted about it because only a full-length report (with supporting survey data) could adequately explain what Google TV has done and will do to the TV market. That report went live this week. Allow me to explain why the report was necessary.
Some have expressed surprise that Google would even care about TV in the first place. After all, Google takes nearly $7 billion dollars into its coffers each quarter from that little old search engine it sports, a run-rate of $27 billion a year. In fact, this has long been a problem Google faces -- its core business is so terribly profitable that it's hard to justify investing in its acquisitions and side projects which have zero hope of ever contributing meaningfully to the business (not unlike the problem at Microsoft where Windows 7 is Microsoft). So why would Google bother with the old TV in our living rooms?
Because TV matters in a way that nothing else does. Each year, the TV drives roughly $70 billion in advertising and an equal amount in cable and satellite fees, and another $25 billion in consumer electronics sales. Plus, viewers spend 4.5 hours a day with it -- which is, mind you, the equivalent of a full-time job in some socialist-leaning countries (I'll refrain from naming names).
Google's goal is to get into that marketplace, eventually appropriating a healthy chunk of the billions in advertising that flow to and through the TV today with such painful inefficiency.
Today Google announced that it had generated $54 billion worth of economic activity in the US in 2009. The report, which shows state by state economic contribution, bases Google's total value on three factors: 1) Sales driven through AdSense and AdWords; 2) Ad revenue generated for publishers through AdSense; and 3) Google grants. As a research analyst, I'll admit that you can make numbers tell any story you want to, and my gut here is that this report is principally a PR effort to: 1) Communicate some altruism about the Google brand that has been getting some bad press of late; 2) Simplify the complex transformation Google has brought to advertising into a simple, single number; 3) Shift the focus away from questionable strategic decisions that Google has recently made. I wholeheartedly believe that Google has transformed advertising and is almost singularly responsible for the phenomenon of biddable media buying which I think will ultimately replace relationship-facilitated media buys across channels. But I don't believe that Google stimulated $54 billion worth of business. I think what Google did do is provide a new revenue stream to small businesses and site owners, catalyze some new sales, and take a share of commerce and media expenditures that would have happened anyway.
Today, Google announced Google App Engine for Business, and integration with VMware’s SpringSource offerings. On Monday, we got a preview of the news from David Glazer, Engineering Director at Google, and Jerry Chen, Senior Director Cloud Services at VMware.
For tech industry strategists, this is another step in the development of cloud platform-as-a-service (PaaS). Java Spring developers now have a full platform-as-a-service host offering in Google App Engine for Business, the previously announced VMforce offering from salesforce.com, plus the options of running their own platform and OS stacks on premise or in virtual machines at service providers supporting vCloud Express, such as Terremark.
What’s next? IBM and Oracle have yet to put up full Java PaaS offerings, so I expect that to show up sometime soon – feels late already for them to put up some kind of early developer version. And SAP is also likely to create their own PaaS offering. But it’s not clear if any of them will put the same emphasis on portability and flexible, rich Web-facing apps that Google and VMware are.
So Google aims to expand into enterprise support – but will need more than the planned SQL support, SSL, and SLAs they are adding this year. They'll also need to figure out how to fully integrate into corporate networks, the way that CloudSwitch aims to do.
Following its acquisition of Quattro Wireless for $275,000,000, Apple has just announced the launch of iAd, its mobile advertising platform (see my colleague’s take here). Adding the $750,000,000 that Google is ready to invest in AdMob (the deal is still under FCC scrutiny), the two most disruptive new mobile entrants have invested more than $1 billion — a clear signal that mobile advertising has long-term potential. The main difference between Google and Apple is that Apple is only just entering the advertising business, while Google’s entire business model simply IS advertising. However, that potential has yet to be realized. Does that mean stakeholders can generate significant revenues in the short term and that operators will be bypassed once again? I have read in various places some strange comments suggesting that Google’s mobile ad revenue share with mobile operators would be a way to finance network evolution. Just compare the cost of a base station and the significant investment required to finance 4G with absolute mobile advertising revenues and you’ll quickly figure out for yourself that this is unlikely to happen anytime soon. This is more of an online advertising discussion around the Net neutrality debate (remember France Telecom’s CEO warning that he was not “building freeways for Californian cars”!) but it will crop up later for mobile.
Building off of Tom Grant's post about Google Buzz earlier today, Google Buzz is an interesting case study about how winning market share is not just about having the first or the best product. It is often about having a product (including marketing and sales) that does the best job at getting users to use it and getting developers to create quality content.
Google knows this better than anyone, and which is why they just released a product that they hope will be easier to adopt than Twitter or Facebook. Google Buzz is not fully baked and its privacy settings are badly broken; however its intended audience already uses Gmail and just had this new tool literally dropped into their inboxes. Google is probably hoping to replicate its successful introduction of GChat, an instant messaging client that was substantially worse than any other when it was introduced in late 2005 but today enjoys widespread adoption because it is on by default for anyone logged into Gmail and was gradually improved.
Non-social products can survive with gradually declining market share for a number of years, and then potentially come back if users become convinced that their offering is superior. However a social media product without users is a ghost town, a phenomena that MySpace knows well as their CEO leaves today.
This is not a battle over who has the neatest features; it's a battle over who will be the most successful at capturing user time, an increasingly limited resource.
Therefore: Do you think the technical problems with Google Buzz, both privacy and other, are enough to stop it from gaining broad adoption, at least among existing Gmail users?
We just had another of our regular cloud research meetings at Forrester. In these meetings, we cut across our research organization to examine cloud computing from every angle.
Compared with even just a year ago, it's amazing how important and pervasive cloud computing analysis (as opposed to cloud computing guesswork) has become in our research calendar.
You can see the existing cloud/*aaS research here and our planned research here. As the meeting host, I mostly listen, probe, and take notes, but ocassionally I get to jump in with a thought.
To wit: We are often asked about whether cloud-based collaboration (email, team sites, instant messaging, Web conferencing, social computing, etc.) works best on multi-tenant, dedicated solutions, or both. The answer is both, but trending towards multi-tenant. Our clients are interested in both multi-tenant and single-tenant or dedicated cloud solutions -- as long as the price is right.
The future of cloud-based collaboration is clearly multi-tenant for two economic reasons:
1. Multi-tenant enables the fundamental economic benefits of a shared resource. We can see this in the price war going on in email right now -- a 50% price cut in the last 12 months with multi-tenant cloud email. The floor on email cost keeps dropping, fueled by the better economics of multi-tenant solutions and high capacity utilization.
I was intrigued and excited to see Google announcement of their second operating system effort today, Google Chrome OS. I’ve been thinking about how client operating systems will evolve ever since I began struggling with having data spread across multiple PCs. I finally gathered together my thoughts on the future of client OS in the The Personal Cloud, published just two days ago.
My working title for this report was “Death of the PC OS” because I believe that the industry needs to rethink and expand the role of PC and device operating systems.