A wide range of services
The number of plates Google have spinning is bafflingly vast, offering over 30 products through their main site and numerous first-party apps through their own android operating system for smartphones and tablets.
‘Search’, where it all began, is currently the top ranked site for traffic in the world (according to rankings.com), followed by YouTube, which Google bought back in 2006 for $1.65billion, and is a topic of popular news almost daily.
The rise and rise of Google
The company’s philosophy states its mission is to “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Reading that out of context you could be forgiven for mistaking it for the motto of Wikipedia (which, coincidentally, is more related to the fact that the site is to provide information and not argue value judgements), but Google’s approach is far more widespread thanks to its targeted approach to every other internet-driven product on the market.
Though Google has created many of its biggest success stories, such as ‘Maps’ and ‘Gmail’, other products were acquired through the 2000s, such as Picasa and YouTube. Arguably only YouTube truly holds its own against the might of its parent company to have its own identity, partly because of how the business is run (as a subsidiary company), but most interactions surfers have with Google are with ‘Google’ prefixed products.
A redesign of the ‘Maps’ product was the most impressive innovation to be announced this year, using a vector-based interface to shrink loading times and improve accuracy.
Playing around on the beta version, the new interface is slick and effective, offering more transport options than before. Loading is undeniably snappier and the simplicity of the presentation helps things not look cluttered even in built up areas.
There are bugs to be ironed out, but it seems like a solid step forward which offers consumers what they had before quicker and more into the package as well.
One for all and all for plus
The company insists that ‘it’s best to do one thing really well’ and despite the diversification that is still true – search is clearly the strongest part of any one of their products, whether it’s tracking down a two-year-old email or picking out a restaurant you half remember from 2008.
Convergence is happening in all forms of media and the real drive for Google this year seems to be to unite their products, most likely under the banner of Google +.
The social media sharing platform has been steadily growing momentum through the past few years, and a recent tune up to the Hangouts feature has made the technology far more accessible (though not necessarily more popular).
The consistency and familiarity is something which will solve a lot of the companies brand loyalty in the long run, but the short and harsh truth is that change is hard for most people.
With nothing to compel them to switch, most users will continue with the messaging app they are familiar with, whether that is Facebook Messenger, iMessage or a third-party compiler like What’s App.
The writing’s on the cloud
The long-term gain may prove to be enough, but there needs to be imagination-capturing innovations such as the company’s fancy, though slightly unbelievable, ‘Glass’ product to keep people coming back to them for more than just ‘googling’ something.
In a way the company is a victim of its own success, being so synonymous with internet searching makes it difficult to really make its mark in other areas. This is despite the infrastructure of many other aspects of the business, such as Google Docs or Blogger, being more than up to their respective tasks.
Plus (pun not intended), there is scope within the ‘Labs’ area of development, but overall the company would do well to not spread their net too thinly and find holes starting to develop.
The power of brand
Android is where the opportunity lies over the next few days, ironically because it has its own brand separate to Google, so consumers can feel more of a brand affinity than with the plain, cold image of a multi-national.
In-roads are being made in areas such as business, where the company is powering more and more companies from behind the scenes, but the ‘cool’ factor is still something which is clearly owned by the likes of Apple.
In short – Google is here to stay, but what it means to ‘google’ something might need to diversify to let the brand continue to make progress overall, rather than just in the more flexible, innovative and smaller-scale aspects of the business.
James Michael Parry