There has been a subtle change happening at Google in the past year or so. A year ago, Google was an internet giant quietly shaping the internet, piece by piece, without much fan fare. Today, however, Google is becoming an internet giant loudly shaping the internet, piece by piece, with a greater amount of fan fare.
Founded in 1996 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google has grown to be the most prolific internet company in the world. They are known for having a “no-evil” policy and a great focus on net-neutrality. Until about a year ago, Google, as a company, had been relatively quiet. While Microsoft and Apple beat each other up in the trenches, Google stayed generally quiet, soaking up the profits. Times have changed.
According to Google’s Financial Reports, in 2007, Google saw a 56% growth, in 2008, this dropped to 31%, and in 2009, Google saw an unprecedented low of only 9% growth. While 9% annual growth would be a great achievement for most other companies, it is a great disappointment for Google. It, therefore, should come as no surprise to anyone that Google has become more outspoken and brazen in its marketing campaign.
Over Thanksgiving, Android 2.0 was launched with a flurry of TV advertising on a scale never before seen for a Google product. The TV blitz was handled by Verizon, keeping with Google’s trend of not advertising, but the Google trend was soon to be broken. In early November, Google, in a very Ungoogle move, swept in right underneath Apple’s nose and bought Admob, a mobile advertising firm. Also in November, we saw Google publicly flexing its muscles toward China, accusing them of being behind a hacking attempt on Gmail. In an unprecedented show of force, Google was so steadfast that, for a short time, they affected international relations between the US and China. Fast forward to February where Google finally broke their trend and ran an ad during the Super Bowl highlighting how much their search engine affects our lives. We finally come to the most recent Google news, the release of Buzz. What makes the Buzz release so interesting is that Google called a very public press release and attempted to make as much noise with the launch as they could.
This is clearly new frontier for Google and they haven’t quite gotten it right. No one can rival Steve Jobs in introducing a new product, and Google has a long way until they can compete with their releases. Buzz has been hit hard with major problems and the news about the product didn’t explode the way they would have liked.
It remains to be seen whether or not this new strategy is good for Google. While common sense tells us that for Google to maintain its phenomenal growth in an economy as battered as the one we live in, they would have to get tougher and more outspoken. While they have enjoyed a near monopoly in the internet search arena with no serious competitors, Google is now a new and much more serious entrant into the smart phone industry with Android 2.0. They are a minority player in the mobile market and their base is getting threatened by Bing, which is beginning to slowly take up market share. Google is, for the first time in a long time, somewhat threatened.
Whether the Google we are seeing is in reaction to lowered growth rates, new competitors, or both, it will be interesting to keep an eye on what happens. For the most part, we can agree that competition helps the consumer, but do we really need to add a third group of vocal fan boys to the Apple Microsoft fight?