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Beyond search: Google's grand plan for owning all your screens

The search giant is building a seamless user experience and ad serving tools, across mobile, desktop, TV and whatever screens you have, Google CEO Larry Page says during today's earnings call.

Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page

To hear Larry Page talk, you'd be hard pressed to realize that his company is in the search business.

The Google CEO spent a considerable amount of time during today's investor conference call talking about the opportunity that comes from mobile, being on televisions, and turning its YouTube video service into the kind of entertainment you can spend hours on the couch watching.

The search giant's long-term vision isn't merely relegated to getting users the best answers on the desktop; it's about providing a consistent experience no matter the location or the device.

"Users want one consistent Google experience," Page said during the company's Q3 earnings call. "Technology should do all the handiwork to liberate users so they can get on with their lives. Screen independence is at the core of our strategy."

Google's ambitions are similar to Microsoft, Apple and Amazon's, extending their search capabilities, operating system, applications, and advertising platforms across a broad array of devices, whether its a computer, smartphone, television, tablet, or gaming console. The purpose: to constantly be a part of people's lives and to supply them with useful information -- that Google can then make money off of.

Page made reference to his vision on multiple occasions on the call, always sure to talk about his excitement level.

"I'm really excited about the progress we're making creating a beautifully simple, intuitive Google experience across all devices," he said.

The vision runs counter to the concerns that many investors expressed on the call. While Google imagines a world where its services are everywhere, the reality is the shift to mobile is taking a toll on its ability to make money.

That's because mobile advertisement just isn't as profitable as its desktop search counterpart, and no one has really figured out to make money off of the business.

The shift to mobile is hurting Google in more ways than one. Beyond more clicks occurring on the mobile side, its own mobile unit, Motorola Mobility, posted a wider loss and weaker revenue, dragging down results and causing the overall disappointing quarter. The stock fell more than 8 percent to $695 after earnings were released prematurely, although shares rose slightly in after-hours trading.

Page said he believes the stumbles are only temporary hiccups, and that things will work out if Google can get the right experience for both the consumers and advertisers.

But even with mobile, Page expressed his confidence that things would work out.

We're seeing tremendous innovation in advertising, which helps us monetize mobile queries more effectively than desktop today. Our mobile monetization per query is already a significant fraction compared to desktop. In short, as we transition from one screen to multiscreens, Google has enormous opportunities to innovate and drive ever higher monetization, just like search in 2000.

Page also disputed the notion that apps are taking away from the mobile Web experience, and thus hurting Google. The company touted its position with Google Play, and the company's ability to generate revenue off of the sale of apps.

"Some things are better about the Web and some things are better than the Web with apps," he said. "If we do our jobs right, we will have the same capabilities in both places. I don't think people are thinking about it correctly." 

Page further said that Google is well positioned to succeed in other areas, despite his acknowledgement that platforms such as Chrome and Google Fiber are still in their early stage compared to Android, which has half a billion users. Google TV, which he also talked up, continues to struggle with adoption and limited features.

Page wasn't particularly forthcoming when it came to details of his vision, either.

Still, Google seems to be making some progress with tablets and the Nexus 7, which one analyst believes may have seen sales of 1 million units.

If Google can get the user experience right across devices, it will reap the benefit from ads across all the different screens. And it's not just the digital world, Page talked about the progress Google has made bridging the online world with physical marketing campaigns.

He said that the company was "working very hard to simplify the campaign experience," making the process of buying ads across mobile and Web devices more dynamic and "less arduous work for advertisers and agencies." 

Google will also have to contend with  the FTC and EU as it tries to fulfill its grand ambition to manage billions of screens across the planet.