Google powers ahead of the pack

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    Rickaren New Member Staff Member

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    Google powers ahead of the pack

    Mar 14 2011
    Simon Dingle

    Johannesburg - For as long as there’s been a personal computer, Microsoft has been the dominant provider of operating systems: first with DOS and now with Windows.

    However, a fundamental change in computing has taken place. Now it’s all about online, and personal computing devices are becoming mobile appliances.

    In this new era Google is emerging as king. And while its online and mobile platforms are taking over, its revenues still rely on search and advertising – which gives it a wholly different focus compared with Microsoft and Apple.

    Microsoft isn’t going anywhere and Apple is the biggest technology company by market share, with its iPad ruling the tablet roost.

    But Google owns the fastest-growing platform in the sector with its Android operating system. And it has a set of online services that integrate with its platforms in a way that lends them well to the ongoing consumerisation of technology.

    At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year (and again at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona) countless tablet computers and cellular handsets were unveiled running Android.

    There were also entertainment systems, car audio head units and countless other devices sporting Android.

    Google TV is being embedded in devices from Samsung, Sony and others, and Google Chrome OS will soon be available on laptops from many vendors, beginning with Google’s own Cr-48.

    Android is the star of the show. Its latest versions are 2.3 for handsets and 3.0 for tablets, named Gingerbread and Honeycomb respectively via a naming convention that selects confectionaries in alphabetical order (one Finweek reader suggested on Twitter that version five should be called “Koeksister”).

    Analysts estimate Android now owns 18% of the smartphone market, just overtaking BlackBerry and matching Apple’s iOS.

    Microsoft is nowhere in this game. It has no decisive tablet play and its Windows Phone 7 has had a disappointing launch, although things might pick up now the world’s biggest manufacturer of cellphones – Nokia – has adopted the platform.

    Google’s head of engineering for Android, David Burke, says version 4.0 will merge the tablet features of Honeycomb with the advanced smartphone features of Gingerbread to create a single mobile operating system.

    Burke says the shift to mobile computing is happening fast: remember that in February 2010 the iPad hadn’t yet been announced, and tablet computing as we now know it didn’t exist.

    Skip forward a year and hundreds of devices – from Motorola, Samsung, LG, Dell, Asus and countless others – are flooding the market.

    Android is a natural choice for manufacturers. It’s free to implement as there are no licensing costs, and flexible to customise for their needs, being an open source operating system.

    The 2011 Mobile World Congress was the first time Google had exhibited. The company’s executives had presented talks and other events at the show before, but this year Google had an elaborate Android stand at Barcelona.

    The company’s outgoing CEO, Eric Schmidt, also delivered a keynote speech in which he said smartphone sales have overtaken PC sales on a quarterly basis.

    It’s all about mobile, he pointed out, and that aligns with Google’s strategy.

    Trading since 2004, Google now has a market cap of $190bn, against Microsoft’s $217bn and Apple’s $327bn.

    Those three companies are the computing ecosystem providers currently in focus – and the war being waged between them is becoming increasingly interesting to watch.

    Apple makes the most money with the smallest market share, Microsoft is still riding the Windows wave but Google is taking over from the inside and the outlook may be very different by this time next year.

    * This article was first published in Finweek


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