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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Google Instant : Awesome Engineering To Result In Enhanced Revenue

A few hours back today, Google launched an ambitious effort to make search faster for all . In the process they have laid the foundation for a new version of SEO to take roots. Lets look at the details here.

To quote Google:

"Google Instant is a new search enhancement that shows results as you type. We are pushing the limits of our technology and infrastructure to help you get better search results, faster. Our key technical insight was that people type slowly, but read quickly, typically taking 300 milliseconds between keystrokes, but only 30 milliseconds (a tenth of the time!) to glance at another part of the page. This means that you can scan a results page while you type."

Marketers and SEO professionals cant ignore this ..
"Smarter Predictions: Even when you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, predictions help guide your search. The top prediction is shown in grey text directly in the search box, so you can stop typing as soon as you see what you need."



This essentially means that different people would potentially get to see different results for the same query. Up until now, search queries used to return identical results for users ( i think in the same continent/region). Now with this, Google is introducing a ground shift : adding a new dimension to search and bringing out in the open a loop in play. Today’s new dimension is the user.Tomorrow,it can potentially add language,location, nature of access device to the mix and this spins a new territory. The basis of operations of search engines and by extension the discipline of search engine optimization is fundamentally altered. The new loop of response and feedback is going to make this field more and more sophisticated. . Like an aircraft on flight path monitoring direction, altitude, wind speed, payload etc to help pilot take the right instanteous decision,Google Instant search results gets predicated on a variety of factors. Marketers, SEO professionals have quite a task at hand moving forward.


In a webcast today for select attendees, Google shared additional details - rather it put on display it’s massive engineering prowess. Google estimates that a search typically takes 9 seconds to enter, 0.8 seconds for data transfers between its data centers, and 0.3 seconds to process. The user then spends 15 seconds choosing a link. For consumers, Instant can save the average user 2-5 seconds per search via dynamic search results, enhanced predictive technology, and scroll-to-search functionality that changes results pages as users choose search suggestions. You can read more about Google Instant here (including crazy statistics, like "If everyone uses Google Instant globally, we estimate this will save more than 3.5 billion seconds a day. That's 11 hours saved every second."). Some users may find the new process a little bewildering but may soon get acclimatized.

What does Google get out of this :more query volume, increased market share and loyalty - but more importantly overtime traffic may shift more to head ( recall the last time you looked at the 47th result). Optimizing search results around query volume makes access to such results more precious and by extension turbocharges average price per keyword click thus boosting Google’s monetization initiatives much better.

So massive engineering prowess pushing better monetization efforts sums up the development - consumers have nothing to complain but rejoice at the next massive leap that Google has taken.

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Monday, May 31, 2010

Google's Economic Impact : Next Time It Will Look Different

Google published the first ever “Google’s Economic Impact” report, which estimates that in 2009, Google generated $54 billion of economic activity for advertisers, publishers, and non-profit bodies in the United States. This is done using the AdSense & AdWords frameworks and delivered via paid search clicks, natural search clicks, AdSense revenue sharing, and Google Grants aka charitable donations. The report reveals that Google’s US revenue in 2009 was $11 billion; the $54 billion figure is Google's computation on how much value Google creates for its partners. The methodology used therein is quite a pioneering one, given that this is the first time that someone is attempting to assess the economic impact of online ads at this scale : the whole internet and who else is better qualified than Google to attempt this.

This is an interesting report, the implications of which will be felt more and more in the years to come. If we reason out that search engines (Google)are in many senses replacing displacing traditional media ad spends, it may be difficult to agree with Google’s $54 billion estimate for its direct economic impact but we have to concede a few things. This is a new growing media, the media, by nature brings in more participation from new class of users and one that may be potentially more ready to spend and the flexibility this provides to advertisers - they can cap daily ad spend and can look at in realtime extending or suspending ads based on clicks and reach. Google's report primarily depends on the assumption that clicks on natural results drive five times as many leads for businesses as clicks on paid results. However, we believe the indirect impact may be much much more.

I have seen estimates suggesting that Google's Traffic Acquisition Cost payments to US publisher websites, (as assessed by analysts) at about $3 billion, for an revenue of 11 billion dollars which is now being projected by Google to have an advertiser impact of about $50 plus billion. Lets look at the calculation :
Google calculates the advertiser impact of its search service by assuming that for every dollar spent by an advertiser, the advertiser generates two dollars in sales (and one dollar in “sales minus marketing expense”, which the report calls “profits”) from consumers clicking on the purchased search result, and a further seven dollars in “profits” from consumers clicking on natural search results for the same advertiser, creating an 8X multiplier effect. Thus, claims the report, $7 billion in US-owned and operated revenue should drive $56 billion in economic impact

Now the difficult part:
- Google says that businesses receive an average of five clicks on search results for companies as ads, and by its own conservative standards, estimates that search clicks are about 70 percent as commercially relevant and valuable as ad clicks, and thereby calculates that advertisers receive a total of eight times in surplus what they spend in AdWords. Look carefully here:

- Google assumes that people clicking on links are as inclined to purchase. Any benefit from link clicks has nothing at all to do with having ads. The two are separate events, and a company gets the benefit from search engine optimization and all the work of having a Web site, rapidly increasing the effective cost of using the ads.

- As the Jansen and Spink study states, “More than 80% of web queries are informational in nature and approximately 10% aretransactional, and 10% navigational.” This may lead one to think that the vast majority of clicks need not convert into sales (this is understandable) and so the impact may be less than what is assumed herein.

Thinking deep, it occurs to me it would be tough to embrace or discard Google’s estimated multiplier effect .As noted earlier, Google calculates the advertiser impact of its search service by assuming that for every dollar spent by an advertiser, the advertiser generates one dollar in “sales minus marketing expense” from consumers clicking on the purchased search result, and a further seven dollars from consumers clicking on natural search results for the same advertiser, creating an 8X multiplier effect. Google estimates that one dollar spent on search generates two dollars in advertiser sales via consumer clicks on paid search results. This assessment is centered on the methodology devised by Hal Varian, its Chief Economist, which in its core, assumes that advertisers are spending rationally to buy a certain keyword ranking rather than a higher or lower ranking, and then deriving the implied value which advertisers place on a click. I would think that this resonates well with my intuitive reasoning. Google estimates that one dollar spent on search corresponds to seven dollars in advertiser revenue via consumer clicks on natural search results.

Ideally , Google should have attempted a Lifetime Value assessment to derive the economic impact but rightfuly chooses to center these on transaction basis given the characteristics of the internet media and its limited lifespan. I talked to a few power users of these services (corporate and SMB) and find that for many interenet centric revenue generators, the proportion of their online centric revenue coming out of search engines on an average hover around upwards of 20% in their established and growing phase of business. The informal estimates from such sources point to 40-20-40 ratio - direct traffic,keyword centric and natural search referrals. For startups and early life enterprises, the ratio could be 25-35-40 pointing to a near 6X ratio. The swing across the range hovers between 4x to 6x ratio.

Without search engine, Google acknowledges advertisers would find other means of reaching consumers. We have to concede that search engines are not just merely capturing existing consumer spending rather they stimulate additional consumer spending(any online purchaser can vouch for this - they tend to buy more , owing to the dramatic increase in efficiencies and the smoothness of the operation). To be fair, Google’s true “economic impact” on a community should likely be measured in a way that balances the economic patterns it disrupts with the new-model of business it generates. Online ads and Google being the dominant player there are directly influencing the sale and retail mechanisms in a big way and are bound to increase their influence and hopefully, we will see the economic impact assessment methods improve a lot more along with the results.

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Monday, September 01, 2008

The Google Browser -At Last

Google just officially confirmed that it is releasing a new open-source web browser,named Google Chrome .
My immediate reaction is to see Google also launch a mobile browser that can be deployed to multiple OS platforms. This may influence adoption/potential cross-over to the Android mobile platform. Sandboxed Tabs would be a key thing to watch.They are also moving to multiple processes. Seriously, waiting to try as soon as this gets released.

As I pointed out years back, Google is using the internet to systematically devalue Microsoft’s assets, forcing a “Microsoft’s Black Monday” on the wall street in future. Google is leveraging the mantra that built Microsoft: who controls the UI controls the user; who controls the API controls the programmer.

While there may be scepticism about what could a new broswer do - except introducemore confusion, as I see it, if Google Chrome delivers on its promise of speed, stability, security and reliability, it will like gmail soon commiand the mind share of the web users. This in turn should make it possible to push common web standards! The advantages of their fundamental design changes will likely force other browser makers to reexamine and bring out similar or better appraoches to the market . On the privacy front,the google chrome ecosystem should bring in the right plug-ins to allay any concern there. This will definitely shake up the IE/Windows behemoth .

As cloud computing, becomes more mainstream, users will begin to spend more time online - and a presence in the entire internet food chain is going to help Google.While Google's products are not a replacement OS, but the collection of tools released thus far serve the same purpose. Even products that run on Windows PCs, such as Google's Picasa photo-editing software, could tie back to Google's online services. Google is intelligently rebatching Microsoft desktop products/services as its. Web companies, such as eBay, Yahoo and Amazon.com, treat their Web sites as customizable platforms, & offers a starkly different technology vision to developers than traditional software companies do.It is slowly leading to a situation where one model says build for Windows and the Microsoft 'stack'; the other says build for the Internet. The platform of the future shall not be focussed on controlling the hardware but it is going to be around access, community, collaboration & content.
Clearly , this is an exciting announcement that will benefit competition, innovation, enforcing standards, web developers and the horde of web users.



Update : Google quickly repointed the Google Browser launch page to its homepage!

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ruthless Web Users

When people go online they know what they want and how to do it, says Jakob Nielsen, the usability guru. The annual report into web habits by Jakob Nielsen shows people are becoming much less patient when they go online. Instead of dawdling on websites many users want simply to reach a site quickly, complete a task and leave. Most ignore efforts to make them linger and are suspicious of promotions designed to hold their attention.

Look at the observation here : "In 2004, about 40% of people visited a homepage and then drilled down to where they wanted to go and 60% use a deep link that took them directly to a page or destination inside a site. In 2008, said Dr Nielsen, only 25% of people travel via a homepage. The rest search and get straight there, pointing out that search engines (though imperfect though) rule the web. The findings are significant indeed. To drill deep or scan wide is always a challenge for web surfers and at a time when the choices seem to be multiplying by the day, it is only to be expected that surfers would like to land directly at the information that they are seeking. This imposes a pressure on the web designers - with searches going beyond home page. The branding, usability, navigation will have to be looked at every page in the site, given that surfers can and will land inside any page.Homepage sheen would not suffice to be seen as a trendy and sticky site. This alos portends an important trend here -online advertising may prove to lot more tougher and whoever gets it right would dominate the market - a clear reason why Google dominates online advertisement space. No complaints - this helps the cause of usability, information architecture and the state of web adoption improve for the better.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Gold Standard In Search

With about 65 percent marketshare, Google continues to lead the mass search space. In the UK market, Google has over 85% marketshare. The marketshare numbers are not mere numbers for the sake of numbers - these correlate to revenue potential. It is estimated that Google translates each point of market share into about $100 million in annual revenue.
Peter Norvig, Director of research oversees about 100 computer scientists as they work on projects as diverse as medical records management and machine translation. In this interview he talks about the directions of search in Google.

TR: You claim that Google's accuracy is pretty good. How do you know how good it is, and how do you make it better?

PN: We test it in lots of ways. At the grossest level, we track what users are clicking on. If they click on the number-one result, and then they're done, that probably means they got what they wanted. If they're scrolling down, page after page, and reformulating the query, then we know the results aren't what they wanted. Another way we do it is to randomly select specific queries and hire people to say how good our results are. These are just contractors that we hire who give their judgment. We train them on how to identify spam and other bad sites, and then we record their judgments and track against that. It's more of a gold standard because it's someone giving a real opinion, but of course, since there's a human in the loop, we can't afford to do as much of it. We also invite people into the labs, or sometimes we go into homes and observe them as they do searches. It provides insight into what people are having difficulty with.

TR: Where do you see Google search in two to five years?

PN: You'll see integration of various kinds of content. We're getting into speech recognition and all the kinds of interfaces on phones, where you have a tiny screen and awkward keyboard. You'll see that gaining in importance. You'll see integration of our various properties. We used to put the onus on the user and ask them if they wanted Web search or image search or video search. Now we're trying to solve that for them and serve up the results in a way that makes sense.

Simplicity in thinking and good execution to support scale characterises Google and so ling as it sticks to these as minimum goals in all of its inititaitves - it is bound to suceed further.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Emerging Competition Between Google & Microsoft

The NYTimeshas an interesting take on the emerging Google –Microsoft race . Google believes that cloud computing can be a game changer. Henry Blodget has an interesting perspective on this. As I see it, Microsoft appears to be losing customer centricity and their cultural DNA seems to be moving away from incremental innovation –particularly with the windows platform and their inexplicable delay in rolling out Longhorn are clear indications of losing steam. Microsoft will take decades to be out of business as their product basket of offering is wide – and some niches may still save the company.I am still baffled why Microsoft (other than for being selfish about its interest)is not considering providing a hosted solution - when enterprise application software vendors are beginning to provide and stepping up aggression in pushing. Microsoft may end up to be a pale shadow of its present –that would be sad indeed – but the risk is indeed high for Microsoft. Microsoft is lucky that currently there is no one alternative that can dislodge it in key arena's - starting particularly in the desktop segment. While looking at future of microsoft, I wrote that the impending power of Broadband and hosted models are creating a new tapestry very different from what Microsoft is envisaging - one can note that microsoft has lagged behind in most of the new elements in this picture. Many think that hordes of cash, lock-ins and a lack of credible alternative to it would insure microsoft against any downturn in future - I doubt it - while microsoft may be trying to creating froth in the consumer electronics sector- it is appallingly falling behind in its ability to be creative and seems to be losing touch in respect of making new roll outs win in the market - MSN portal, MSN search , declining attraction towards hotmail, the non starter called spaces.msn.com etc - all conclusively point to this. Glorious past is certainly no pointer to great success in future. It is nice to see that Microsoft is planning to take the right moves - Time for Google to pre-empt Microsoft in this move.
Another interesting perspective to be considered here us that given the exponential increase in Internet connected devices, coupled with increased processor power and bandwidth attached to devices, the very definition of "server" may be about to change. With IPV6 about to get rolled out on a massive scale, the nature of relationship between a server and a client undergoes significant shift. This enables creation of an environment ripe for the development of new client layers and application models, operating on a much more distributed scale than we have ever seen and who better than Google could capitalize on this. The Google model of massively distributed computing gets more relevant here and extend this to a new ecosystem of net-enabled devices. Its going to be a different, different world – one wherein Microsoft would begin to get more and more less dominant.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

ClickFrauds, Transparency & Google

A new study finds that about 15 percent of pay-per-click advertising dollars could be lost due to clickfrauds, contends a new study. Pathological traffic that impacted a small sample of less than a dozen websites resulted in advertisers being billed for illicit clicks that the search engines did not catch. The early results of a Fair Isaac study of click fraud showed some channels could hit ad campaign budgets at a rate of 10 to 15 percent.
Also, Fair Isaac contends that Google's specific estimates of what their unsupervised detection efforts find in click fraud is "not believable," based on their experience detecting fraud in other industries. Without advertiser data, search engines cannot defeat click fraud.

The 10 to 15 percent rate of pathological traffic hitting Fair Isaac's small sample of advertisers, less than a dozen sites, far exceeds the 0.02 percent rate touted by Google. Earlier, Danny Sullivan wrote Google’s declaration that self clicks are traced and offset looks like a wrong claim as its feasibility looks suspect. Some of those who have been blacklisted by Google for adsense misuse cry about Google’s highhandedness in dealing with them by stopping their accounts without sharing much details of the suspected fraud. With Google poised to massively increase its revenue owing to conquering more marketshare, it is only fair that there is some more openness from Google into their fraud detection methods, which they guard closely for the protection of their advertisers, or more results from the Fair Isaac test, it's hard to tell who to believe right now.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Google Poised To Disproportionately Increase Revenue

Dan Dodge concludes, 1% of search market share is worth over $1 Billion'. His math concludes that each search query produces $0.12 ad revenue, which gives a value of $1B for just 1% of total search market share.

The world internet population is in excess of 1.2 B internet users and Google leverages the internet through search and adsense – of 50% of internet search happens through Google, and a portion of revenue coming through adsene.

We are going to see the explosion of internet moving forward. Jakob Nielsen points out that with usability scene improving, in the long run, every time companies increase the value of their online businesses, they end up handing over all that added value to the search engines. Any gain is temporary; once competing sites improve their profit-per-visitor enough to increase their search bids, they'll drive up everybody's cost of traffic. This is great news for search engines: they can double their income by doing nothing. Google is improving its market share consistently – we are likely to see a disproportionate share of revenue growth moving forward – it is likely that Google’s revenue growth would rise faster than the rise of its search marketshare. That’s why it is interesting to see Microsoft beginning to focus on advertorial market in an aggressive manner – after all revenue streams in the internet revolve around search and advertorial market. Having lost the search game, Microsoft wants to atleast build some revenue streams – one will have to wait & see how this would pan out. But one thing is clear : short of a technological shift in the internet/search technology, google is poised to vastly improve its revenue as the internet begins to reach more and more people around the world.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Google , SFDC : Waning Phase?

Joshua Greenbaum writes, salesforce.com is the next Siebel, the next CRM has-been, the next low-priced software buyout opportunity, unless somehow the company embarks on a remarkable turnaround from its current moribund strategy. It may take a couple of years, and there may be some big blockbuster announcements and a couple of good quarters in the interim, but it’s gonna happen, and it’s gonna be ugly. I definitely see merits in Greenbaum’s argument – SFDC may need to recreate itself to grow - the sustainable next big thing is still awaited from SFDC.


Bob Cringley writes that Google is sowing the seeds of its own eventual destruction. His point is by investing in so many good people and chartering them to generate and execute good ideas, Google is overstretching itself. His point: good ideas alone are not enough. The real money is in taking existing ideas and twisting the idea just far enough to make it work in a fantastic new way. Somehow I do not think that Google can be that easily written off – they have remarkable depth in their thinking and reasonable degree of strength in execution. Remarkable are the ways that law of nature plays itself!!

Update : Jason Wood comes with an outstanding piece in support of SFDC, in response to Josh Greenbaum's criticism on SFDC. Josh responds to Jason's criticism. I do not agree with Josh on the two quarter decline but I do think that SFDC needs to come with something significant to sustain the growth rates(despite customer lock-ins/deferred revenues - these would be seen as tail wind effect(s) when future numbers begin to roll out. There still remain lot more questions in front of SFDC to sustain its phenomenal growth rates - more particularly we have to see the speed at which it is able to establish itself inside fortune 500 enterprises.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Significane Of Google And Doubleclick

I am just back from a long period of travel and catching up on last weeks developments - need to fiish a lot before I set out to travel again.
John Battelle writes, the fact that DoubleClick went to Google strikes me as a seminal moment in the history of this industry. Microsoft could not win it, despite the cash it was willing to spend. He reports that he learns that Microsoft did offer to match it, and was willing to pay even more to insure that Google did not corner the online ad market. But for whatever reason, the private equity firm that owned the majority of DoubleClick’s shares decided to go with Google.

John Batelle builds his thinking on the basis of what he could gather from his sources and need to be seen as such.I wouldn’t just like that take it as fact that DoubleClick was offered more by Microsoft and that they turned it down. If what John says is true( I would imagine that this should be true given his connections), I do think that it is indeed a significant win for Google. I have dealt with DoubleClick in the past and know its vast potential. For Google, this is indeed significant – they outdistanced a potential big time threat – Microsoft but at the same time have expanded their core service offerings. The deal is not just that – it has helped Google to increase its customer base as well. Google paid 100% more than what it paid to acquire YouTube. Its no wonder why competitors like Microsoft, Yahoo, AT&T are crying foul. I think more than anything else the allure of cash must have helped Hellman-Friedman decide in favor of Google considering their acquisition cost was a mere one billion and odd dollars. My good friend and fellow enterprise irregular points out that Hellman-Friedman is not just a doubleclick pony. I think, at the least, this would help Google keep its focus on what it wants to do for securing its future, not worrying about competition for some time. Moves like this put pressure on players like Yahoo – particularly in its ability to get more value out the current set of raw materials. Google’s aggression is not only going to help its cause but very likely to drive Yahoo and Microsoft to come together. Its interesting to see what all a shrewd marketleader can do – expand the market, consolidate its position and define what competition needs to do!!

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Google, Salesforce.com & Enterprise Information

Salesforce.com’s foray into content management space has made different people look at the development in many different ways. I was slightly amused to see Nick Carr’s perspective that this could lead to a fight between Google & Salesforce.com!! I think that Nick is probably overlooking several issues here:

A. SFDC is far more entrenched than Google within its customer base
B. Google’s non paying customer base far exceeds it s paying customer base by several degrees as against SFDC’ s paid subscribers.
C. There’s a business model issue here – Hosted solution is a defacto one for Google as against SFDC selling hosted solution as part of its value proposition.
D. Google & SFDC are currently working on API’s that can extend their applications reach (for that matter every other hosted solution player is trying this)
E. Google does not offer content management facility for its customers – though it has by al means built an excellent content management system that it uses internally in applications like news.google.com or finance.google.com. There’s no mention that Google may make this available in future for its customers – if that happens, with API extensions, it would be a serious play – no competition can expect to come anywhere closer to it – in terms of its capabilities and feature list
F. Google Apps Premier, is on paper extending new enterprise level customization and integration capabilities. Google’s partners are said to be developing a variety of solutions based on its APIs, including email gateways, enhanced security, Google Calendar synchronization, third-party integration with Google Talk, as well as offering deployment, migration, and additional support services.
G. SFDC’s sales machinery and customer relationships may appear to give it a leg-up but Google’s search capabilities and whole host of new offering would endear it more to customers

While with Google Apps, Google may end up creating new forth like what SFDC did with its entry year back – I do not see SFDC acquiring these capabilities across the board to be in reckoning for competing with Google – Clearly Google's ability to manage content is streets ahead and Marc Benioff would know this for sure. In fact it is entirely possible for Google to technically aggregate its products and features and deploy a pretty strong strategy in many markets - potentially taking SFDC head on.It could be a case of minimal unavoidable overlaps but both these smart players know where not to tread into each others(s) shoes. Is there a case for these two players to work together - very much given SFDC's enteprise reach and Google's engineering prowess in harnessing information.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Google : Business Model Wins

If ever you need to look for a case as to where business model could ensure win for an enterprise- do not look beyond Google. What an amazing enterprise, it is turning out to be! I was just about to compile and understand the financial muscle of Google when I stumbled on this excellent compilation by Eric Bangeman on Google’s financial muscle. Look at some of the impressive numbers therein:

- Revenue Growth from $400 million plus in 2002 to $10.6 billion in four years (should rate as an all time record for business!!)
- Cash & Short term investments from $2.1 billion in 2004 to $11.2 billion now
- 99% revenue comes from online advertising
- Traffic acquisition costs are 31.5% of the revenue(this means other competitors can’t even dream of spending this – more so by the nearest competitor, in this case Yahoo,further fortifying Google’s lead)

Look at the excellent financial lead Google has over competitors:

- Cost of sales at Google is at 8% & Eric claims that the corresponding number for Microsoft is 22% & Yahoo is 20% and Apple is 22%
- Cash on Hand for Google is at $11.2 billion , Apple has $12 billion, Yahoo has $1.6 billion while Microsoft has $34 billion in cash.

Look deeper – none of Google’s competitors have any wherewithal to compete on existing areas given the cost structures and the topline lead helps Google to keep running faster and creating more money – this is a double treat – it increases the distance of lead while further bringing down/maintaining the cost of operations(Google has been adding cash to its reserve at a faster rate in the last three years). And what does one do with this excess cash – keep investing in core business and focus on innovation and acquisition in new areas. Perfect – can any of the existing players dare to compete against Google in its core areas and expect to win over it? Forget it. Google is not just a technology platform, it has become a business platform –one that would ensure increasing rates of success.

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