Despite Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) quick emergence as the pre-eminent search engine, many of the the company’s projects — display and text advertising, its Android mobile software — have taken time to find their place and change their respective markets.
And let’s not forget, there have been a few blunders. The $1.65 billion purchase of YouTube seemed like a good idea on paper, and it is a popular and widely used brand, but Google has never really figured out a way to make money from it.
Google Buzz, the company’s attempt last year to make a social network out of Gmail, was ignored by the Twitter and Facebook crowds, as well as savaged by the company’s existing audience and industry pundits alike.
Then there are the projects that have yet to be proven. Here are five big ideas in the works at Google that could be the next big successes or failures:
Google Cloud Connect
If you can’t beat them, join them — in the hopes of eventually beating them. Cloud Connect lets users, particularly business, upload Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Office documents to Google’s Web servers, where they can be remotely viewed and edited by a larger group. The service was released last Thursday. While Cloud Connect serves the 750 million strong Microsoft Office user base, it may also act as a Trojan horse, coaxing increasingly more users to Google’s own Google Docs office tools. With a 94% share of the office software market, Microsoft likely isn’t shaking in its boots, but Cloud Connect could ultimately win away users where other competing office tools have failed.
Opened for business on Dec. 6, the e-bookstore formerly known as Google Editions has yet to make a significant impact on a market defined by Amazon’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle business and, to a lesser extent, Barnes & Noble’s (NYSE:BKS) Nook.
Its business model, however, could represent the future of electronic bookstores. Being platform-agnostic lets Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad users access the very same content they can through a web browser, since a record of their purchases is stored by Google’s cloud servers. A single book purchase accessible on any connected device is an appealing strategy. With the right content partners and the right format presentation, the eBookstore could steal away Amazon’s early lead.
Google Music Store
Much like the eBookstore, Google’s music service will offer both downloads and cloud-stored streaming, making it a mix of Apple’s service and a Web-based business like Lala, which Apple purchased and subsequently shut down in 2010.
There is an opportunity here for Google, but the window is small. The Financial Times reported on Thursday that Apple will offer a limited cloud-based option for iTunes users and cloud-based, streaming-only music business Spotify is coming closer to a U.S. release. If Google can beat both to the market and match Apple’s library, GoogleTunes could eat away at iTunes 70% share of the digital music market.
Google made headlines in October when it announced that it had, alongside competitors from the DARPA Challenges, developed a fleet of cars that could drive themselves. The image of six converted Toyota (NYSE:TM) Prius hybrids driving themselves more than 140,000 miles around California was a fun story if nothing else, but it could signify a wholly new revenue stream for Google in a few years. Provided the technology becomes cheap enough, Google software could come built into every car as a safety feature, a sort of grand evolution of connected automative services like General Motors’ (NYSE: GM) OnStar.
It would be tempting to put Google Voice in a list of the company’s blunders, but the Internet phone service may ultimately end up as one of its revenue growers. Voice and video have been available through Google Chat since 2008 but it was only in August that Google introduced the ability for people to call any U.S. phone number free of charge — in addition to extraordinarily cheap international calls. The service has been suffered reputation-damaging blackouts, but there’s still hope provided Google works out the service’s kinks.
At the time of publication, Anthony John Agnello did not own a position in any of the stocks named here.