What started as a simple search engine has grown to an empire of products that inundate our daily lives.
Ads, ads, ads. It's what makes the Google world go round. And it helps subsidize nearly everything that Google offers. And that includes a myriad of products, rich with features, that keep us coming back, and clicking. With all eyes on what Google is going to do next -- and it's doing plenty -- let's take a closer look.
If you want to know how big of a success this is, just ask Apple, whose iPhone trails far behind Android in the mobile operating system numbers game. Sundar Pichai, head of Google's Android and Chrome operations, said at the Google I/O developers conference earlier this year that users activated 400 million Android devices last year. That's four times as many as in 2011. Expectations for 2013? The company's expecting about 900 million Android device activations.
It may seem strange that a search company would make maps such a strong focus. Then again, it's all about location. From reviews, to directions, to ads, where you are matters to Google -- not to mention it's been another club to help Google beat Apple over the head when it comes to smartphone feature comparisons.
Glass is another of the almost-futuristic projects Google is working on. The sci-fi glasses are slowly making their way out into the world, putting many of Google's feature products -- literally -- right in your face.
It's still unclear how widespread the use of wearable technology will be. For now, Google Glass is relegated to early adopters and the ultra-nerdy, though a new report says 12 percent of the U.S. population would be willing to wear the augmented reality eyeglasses on an everyday basis.
When Google paid $1.5 billion to buy YouTube, critics scoffed that the company was wasting its money on a repository of funny cat videos. Yes, it's got that -- and more. A lot more, in fact, as Google's YouTube has become the go-to place to view Internet videos.
You have the store -- now here's your wallet, too. Making buying anything, anywhere, easier is Google Wallet, which recently added pay via e-mail, and APIs which allow payments to be made from inside Android apps. For the time being, however, mark this one up as the proverbial work-in-progress. Despite the hype, Google Wallet has yet to resonate in a big way with consumers. Still, it's early in the history of e-commerce, and Google can afford to be patient.
Google' research into autonomous technology, particularly when it comes to its application to driverless automobiles, is one of the cutting-edge projects the Googlers are working on. Pie in the sky? Maybe not. Piper Jaffray recently put out a report estimating that automated vehicles could account for a $200 billion market.
Obviously, technological and legal issues remain before this becomes ready for prime time, but the wheels are moving. In fact, the U.S. is working out an automated auto policy, and the U.K. has recently green-lighted tests of driverless cars for later this year.
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With everything moving to the cloud, why have a heavy, expensive Windows or Mac operating system acting as a middleman? Why not just have the browser be the OS? And that's precisely the reason the Chromebook shares a name with Google's increasingly popular browser. All of Google's services are easily accessible from this compact device (assuming you also have a Web connection).
Google has recently taken steps to integrate many of its communication features into a single product, Google Hangouts. The Google Talk instant messenger, voice, and video chats have all been moved under the single Google+ umbrella which syncs across devices.