Google is the one unique tech company that can claim to have the largest user base in the world. You can break things down in any way you like, traditional PC and Mac users or mobile consumers, young and old, businesses and individuals. These categories go on and Google is front and center of the lives of many people.. They have a near monopoly of the web with its closest competitor being Microsoft. The market power and data that Google has is second to none. In fact, they have a rather ridiculous advantage compared to any tech firm and possibly to any government database. So what can this giant do in 2013?
New Forms of Computing
The most important product that Google will launch is the Google Glasses. It has been confirmed to hit markets by end 2013 and I am very excited for the potential of this product. Yet, I must say that on launch, Google Glasses will be a gimmick. A rather expensive peripheral that is more of a geek fashion statement rather than one with actual critical capabilities. But that is how most new form factors arrive.
What Google must do is to quickly work on new features that Google Glass can provide. You must be able to do more than just take pictures and videos considering that the camera will only have a very tiny sensor (i.e. crappy quality). Navigation and notifications are cool but more can be done.
Google must push for Glasses to bring computing up a notch. With the amount of data they have, Google Glass must be able to predict what information you wish to have. Take for example sitting in a restaurant. Let’s say that you have always been searching for the amount of calories on Google. What Glasses should do is to overlay the estimated number of calories on the menu as you look through it. Are you the type that loves shopping for new clothes? Google Glasses must alert you to specific discounts that each shop provides as you walk in a mall. You should never have to ask for it. Predictive augmented reality when done right can be groundbreaking.
Predictive augmented reality when done right can be groundbreaking.
Google Glass represents wearable computing. Because of the way it is situated, it is natural and provides a myriad of instant visual connectivity options that no device can replicate. The manner in which it ticks many of the boxes critical to the long term success of new technologies makes me confident that Glasses will become more than just an accessory in the long run.
It is not enough to build a cool product, Google must find ways to make it compatible with a user’s own spectacles and build a wide array of applications and features around its Google Now platform. The race now is to make Glasses do what smartphones cannot or find difficult to. If done right, wearable computing will take the mobile era to a whole new level.
Improve Web Services
Google is under attack for once in its relatively free history. You may talk about Apple but Google’s end game was never about hardware. Apple’s failure at maps crystallized Google’s dominance as a web services provider. But, Microsoft is a very different animal. The business models of both companies are very similar. They do not care about margins, the checkered flag has always been about market dominance. When you dominate a market, you dominate minds. In doing so, you build a brand that lasts longer than any pretty piece of hardware can ever do.
Microsoft’s big push into competing with Google for a slice of web control is great news for users but this competition must force Google to take its web services up a notch. The redesign that Google went through for the past 2 years has been commendable. Google’s search still remains the most dominant search platform due to its wide feature set. Bing is a very distant second. However, Microsoft’s Outlook has made significant inroads on Google’s Gmail. I don’t buy the Scroogled ads that Microsoft is using (although it provides side entertainment) but Gmail needs a boost. Threaded conversations are great but the entire interface still looks a little out of place with white space ineffectively used.
Google must go big on becoming the provider of unified web identities for online users.
What Google needs to do is not just to brush up designs and add a few features here and there. In my opinion, Google must go big on becoming the provider of unified web identities for online users. What I am talking about is a stronger emphasis of Google+ as a tool rather than just another social network. Facebook, Twitter, OpenID and a host of other services have been vying to be the provider of online identities but none of them have as wide a reach and as strong a presence as Google. While Google has integrated Plus identities with YouTube, that move did seem to be more of an attempt to reduce the number of horrible YouTube comments rather than a strong push to be your one stop identity online. I have written in length about why online identities are key to bringing the internet to web 3.0. As this falls squarely in Google’s domain, I expect them to be taking web identity more seriously.
While Google seems to be dominant in many areas, one gaping hole remains is in its inability to grasp the enterprise market and make huge dents on dominant players like Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, etc. The enterprise sector is a great money spinner. However, Google’s focus on earning mind share has seen it take a wrong approach in handling businesses.
Businesses love stability and Google’s mantra of silent updates without a fixed schedule is an aberration to enterprise level technicians and service providers. Remember the rapid updates to Android at the beginning that pissed everyone off? Google corrected that by keeping Android on a more scheduled release cycle so that its hardware partners would not go berserk trying to support the OS. A similar approach must be taken for the slow moving and often very rigid enterprise sector.
Google’s mantra of silent updates without a fixed schedule is an aberration to enterprises.
Unlike the consumer end, Google cannot expect businesses to follow the Google way. Enterprises have too many time critical elements at stake for them to throw their lot with a Google styled approach. The enterprise is the next sector for Google to push hard for and if they do, a new approach must be taken.
Innovate, Innovate, Innovate
There are many exciting things ahead for Google. They do have the clearest vision of the future with the most scalable business model. However, Google needs to consistently churn new ideas such as self driving cars while finding ways to tweak and curate ideas that catches on. The moment it is able to meticulously polish its great ideas, Google’s force in the industry will go further than its current status of already being nearly unstoppable.
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