A look at the Google Ecosystem

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Recently, Dillon Behr (@dbehr24) wrote a great piece about how the consumer technology ecosystem has almost completely fractured – breaking into walled gardens. Those of Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft and the rest are all creating ecosystems with low barriers to entry, but even higher barriers to exit. This post is the first in a series where we will examine each ecosystem in depth.

What does Google Have?

Google is one of the largest email providers out there. They have been growing immensely, and now are the de facto provider for the 17-25 age group. They offer cloud storage (of sorts) and obviously own the search market (just “google it”). YouTube is the only true distributor of online video content (and it’s own verb as well). Along with Facebook, they have the most used chat function (Talk). They have started in on Google Voice (which is great, so long as your cell provider supports it). Google offers their Apps domain, which offers desktop publishing (and collaboration), in the cloud. Google offers its own browser, Chrome, not to mention an operating system, Chrome OS. Google has recently launched their Music offering, enabling cloud storage of your tunes (no questions as to where you found them), and purchase in the Google Market. There is Google+, which appears to be a strange mix of Twitter and Facebook (but has recently picked up a HUGE amount of traction). As well Google Maps is undeniably the best map solution (desktop and mobile). Google has GoogleTV, which I’m still not sure what it really does, but they have it. Last, but not least, there is Android, the most common smartphone operating system in the world.

These are just a few of the Google Offerings

What does Google’s Ecosystem look like?

Google’s ecosystem is (in my mind) the most open of all that we will examine. They openly publish APIs so you can use their services without ever visiting their sites. Google has applications for most of their services on iOS and other operating systems. While Google has their own OS, it really still seems like a toy (and has yet to be proven anything else). Google’s ecosystem is open, yet defined, and accessible as long as you are connected. That is part of the hit on Google – you must be connected to access their services. While this was (and still is true) in part, they are moving to support both online and offline services.

Strengths of Google’s Ecosystem

Everyone’s favorite robot headlines some of Google’s offerings

As previously mentioned, Google’s smartphone operating system is number one in the world. Over 600,000 devices are activated DAILY. They are the low-cost OS of choice, with flexibility across a range of devices and specifications. Google also possesses the number search engine in the US. It is so popular as to become a verb. Additionally, their Apps capability is starting to gain traction in the Federal Government, and as it is free to Non-Profit agencies, it is doing well there. Google offers low barriers to entry, and maintains few barriers to exit. Anything created in their Apps domain is exportable to Microsoft Office formats and PDF. Google has their hands in a bit of everything, and does most of them well. I don’t think that their Chrome OS will ever take off, primarily because Android/iOS own much more attractive stories. Google’s key strength is their willingness to try new things, to debut products that might not have a market (or be 100% polished) but that could grow into something new.

Weaknesses of Google’s Ecosystem

Due to their openness, Google is one of the ecosystems of choice for smartphones. However, the user experience has often been decried. Thus, hardware manufacturers have been “skinning” the Android experience, and in the process, creating a tougher atmosphere for patching and updates. This has led to Android being fractured. By fractured I mean that there are hundreds of Android devices out there, and they are not all on the same version of the operating system. This fractured ecosystem means that not all users get the latest and greatest Google additions, and even if they do get them, they definitely do not get timely updates. This has led to some security issues (which our very own @Crypt0s wrote about here). Additionally, the reliance on network connectivity (which brings all the Google goodness) will have to move to some more client based computing or capabilities.

Summary of Google’s Position

Google occupies an unique position in the market. They are the biggest name in search, in Mobile OS, yet they do not sell physical products. Most of their income is from services, which differentiates them from others in the market. At the end of the day, Google’s Android is taking over in the Mobile arena, and will be the defining operating system for the next few years. The true test will be how well Google can continue to leverage their free services to make money, and provide these services to users.

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