"Google Is Truly Global"
Not really. Google is the gateway to the Internet for hundreds of millions of users worldwide. From Arabic to Zulu, the search engine can be used in more than 100 languages -- even fake ones such as Esperanto and Klingon. In the United States, Google is the unquestionable market leader. It holds a commanding lead, with an estimated 48 percent of all Internet searches in early 2006, over rival Yahoo, which is used 22 percent of the time. Google is growing more rapidly than its major U.S. competitors, and it continues to develop new technologies to attract new users. In fact, you could even say that it's on its way to becoming universal; Google Mars offers interactive maps of the Red Planet. As a brand whose name was officially listed as a verb in Webster's Dictionary earlier this year, Google has entered Americans' everyday lexicon.
But around the world, Google faces tough obstacles. In developing nations, the Web is inaccessible for all but a wealthy few. In technologically advanced countries, Google faces the emergence of government-backed rivals. The competition in Asia is especially fierce. In Japan, Yahoo leads the pack with its millions of registered e-mail users. The leading search engine in China is Baidu.com, which enjoys strong government support. And, though Google's popularity in China is increasing, it can't seem to gain any traction in nearby South Korea. There, the government has invested heavily in making high-speed Internet service widely available, as well as facilitated the creation of a number of domestic Web search firms that are the market leaders. Google has become so frustrated by its inability to crack the Korean consciousness that it has done the unthinkable -- spent money to promote its brand name, something the online giant has rarely had to do anywhere else.
"Google Is the Next Microsoft"
Wrong. Talking heads like to say that Google is like Microsoft 20 years ago -- a fledgling company led by young, iconoclastic engineers who aim to change the world with ubiquitous, innovative technologies. Critics of both companies think Google could eventually grow so large that, just like Microsoft, it will stomp on its competitors and strong-arm those that get in the way. As proof, they cite areas in which Mountain View has already managed to surpass Redmond. Google's search engine leads both Microsoft's and Yahoo's in its number of users. In addition, Microsoft has lost more than a dozen of its best and brightest employees (including the former head of its China operations) to Google, which has set up its own outpost near Microsoft headquarters to attract defectors who don't want to move from Seattle to Silicon Valley.
But those who fear that Google is aiming for world dominance forget one important fact: Though Google must compete against Microsoft, Microsoft never had a Microsoft to compete against. Microsoft's deep pockets -- more than $40 billion in cash -- and its continued dominance of desktop computer operating systems have already forced Google to make a number of costly decisions that are hurting its bottom line. Google recently paid $1 billion to Time Warner for a 5 percent ownership stake in AOL. That defensive maneuver was driven entirely by Time Warner's simultaneous negotiations with Microsoft, which was willing to pay big bucks to knock Google from its perch as AOL's search engine of choice.
In addition, Google fears that Bill Gates will leverage the ubiquity of his operating system by embedding MSN Search in the next version of Windows for new computers. To keep Microsoft at bay, Google is paying millions of dollars to Dell, one of the largest PC manufacturers in the world, to make Google the default search engine on its new machines. Google may be a giant, but Microsoft is still many orders of magnitude bigger.