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For a very long time I’ve wanted to write a post on a company that never seizes to amaze me (or the world, in fact) – Google. Finally, I took to heed what His Holiness Sri Sri Ravishankar very wisely said – attention to intention for manifestation. This post is about understanding Google. What does it do and how its innovation and strategy are linked. A few months ago when I wrote about Marissa Mayer and her strategy at Yahoo, I was trying to figure the same for Google – and realized just how amazing and complex it was.

The maze of Google

The whirlpool that is Google

What is Google?

Let’s begin understanding first what does this $50Billion company actually do? Is it their mission statement –

to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” –

the reason for their involvement in serviceshardwareinternetadvertising and more! What started as a search engine and moved into an advertising platform, today, Google is technology software, services and hardware company.

I’m tempted to call it an advertising company since almost all its revenues comes from advertising, however I would not call it just an advertising firm simply because of its presence across different paradigms. The company advertises based on personal preferences so I’d rather call it an information collector. Although calling it an information collector is not incorrect, what they do after collecting your information is what makes Google so special.

Google Strategy and Innovation 

Google has played with strategy and innovation since its inception. The strategy was, exploit the web pages for information. The innovation was, changing the way we search. As the internet exploded – the strategy and innovation was shown as a positive bet. So it did something again, to create different revenue engines – it worked on new business models and businesses. Google themselves describe their 8 pillars of innovation – I think it’s worth the read 🙂

Google with their search engine not only finds information for you, it knows what you are looking for! This very search engine is the underlying platform of their strategy. Use it across every possible offering – software to make life easy, services for personalization and hardware that will store data! Let that be YouTube or Gmail or Maps. This means they compete with YahooMicrosoftAppleNetflixAmazon amongst many many others in different domains ranging from entertainment and media to physical devices and telecommunications. Google has several companies as a competitor simply because it is present is so many types of markets. Few can appreciate Eric Schmidt’s words “We have a competitor called Microsoft. Microsoft has more cash, more engineers, more global reach. We see competition from Microsoft every day.”

How Does Google Innovate?

Simply put – they take a platform portfolio approach that can make a large number of users go “wow“. As Larry Page once remarked – the product should be ‘scalable’. Google gives surprises I think we all agree on that. What they have done very well is the perception they have built around themselves. (example – employees have the freedom to work on just about “any” project they want). Perception – I use this word because – I think this is very important on the Wall-Street and the end-user.  There is an interesting article I read on Google and Innovation on Forbes.

The Hardware Foray

While most people mock “Hardware” and “Infrastructural” investments – companies like AppleMicrosoftAmazon and Google are continuing to invest significant amounts in this space. A software and services company enters the devices space with tablets and smart-phones etc. It’s investing into better computing and also driverless cars. With margins getting smaller – Google needs to come up with services and products that can literally change life and this they are doing by collecting data. Google is adopting an integrated platform strategy now. Hardware integrated with its Android OS platform around various apps and services! Create devices like Nexus, gather information from every possible source – get revenues via advertisements finally. It seems somewhat obvious that the Motorola acquisition was to follow Apple’s footsteps in some ways.

Google will have to think of making revenues in some other ways! They are ambitious enough to experiment and brave enough to fail! They are ready to work on low margins in the long tail but must secure some fundamental big enterprise accounts. I deliberately skip specifics on talking about trends and Google’s presence on the Cloud, around Big Data and Social etc in this post.

As I prepare myself to take a MOOC from Coursera on Understanding Media by Understanding Google – I hope there will be further interesting insights I get into Google especially around the advertising business to understand this maze better!