December 20, 2007 (Computerworld) -- There's little doubt that Google Inc. is indeed king of online media. In August 2007 alone, Google captured 57% of worldwide market share among search engines, with more than 37 billion search inquiries, according to analyst firm comScore Inc. in Reston, Va. Add to that a mind-boggling stock price of $711 per share on Nov. 5. Not surprisingly, this dominance has led to endless rumors about where Google is headed next.
Dozens of blogs feed the rumor mill daily, and speculation about Google's next move ranges from stories of an undersea cable to Asia to talk about the upcoming gPhone, new data centers and a Google virtual world.
Only Google knows for sure -- but Google watchers have their own educated guesses on the company's next business maneuver. They're going out on a limb with some bold predictions for 2008 and beyond.
1. 'You're Watching ABC Google'
In its quest for more advertising revenue, the company might acquire more-traditional media properties.
"They'll move into radio and television at some point," says Rob Enderle, principle analyst at Enderle Group in San Jose. And if that happens, media buyers would take their advertising dollars to Google first to leverage its multimedia offerings. "I'm not yet convinced that they'll buy a network," Enderle adds, "but that's a possibility" -- as is the purchase of a group of radio stations that Google could aggressively shift to an online delivery model that could enhance the value of its advertising package. At the very least, he says, Google will partner with media outlets for exclusive relationships to secure its revenue stream.
"Their end goal, if they're successful, is to become bigger and more powerful than the combination of Microsoft, IBM and AT&T in their heyday," Enderle says. "And they actually have a strategy that could do it ... by either taking the [ad] money or trivializing the contributions by the other companies."
2. Get Your Free Google PC
In 2008 and beyond, most of the hardware and services that we now pay for are going to be available from Google for free -- or at drastically reduced prices, says Chris Winfield, president of 10e20 LLC, a global search marketing company based in New York. Cell phones, wireless Internet access and even laptops will all be completely ad-supported. "A lot of people would gladly take a free laptop [in return for watching] some ads every now and then," he adds.
Google has already started down this path. It bought Urchin Web analytics software in March 2005 and then offered portions of it for free to users as Google Analytics. It also rebranded Keyhole 3-D satellite imagery as Google Earth and offered it up for free.
"They do that to get more control and more eyeballs and more people using their products," Winfield says. "It would be the same with a laptop or cell phone."