Google hunts Big Business (while mobile throws the spear)


An editor we know noticed today that Google is running banner ads at the top of BusinessWeek.com, enticing a corporate audience to click through and learn how Google apps can run their enterprise better. The “Go Google” campaign has been out since mid-summer, so it’s time to wonder: What in the world is Google thinking, chasing big organizations?

Los Angeles, for one. The entire city government announced Tuesday it has approved a $7.2 million deal to run Google applications via contractor Computer Sciences Corp. That’s right. Police officer and firefighter email and related web apps will now float off local desktops into the cloud.

Google, whassup?

Google makes the vast majority of its moola from advertising associated with consumer web searches. Even if it were successful in making a dent in Corporate America, selling apps to seats for small fees, it might get a minor uptick in revenues. So why chase the enterprise software market? We see five reasons:

1. Search is going down. Consumer search usage is slipping. Google constantly releases data showing paid clicks are up, but much of that comes from overseas growth. Click over to Google Trends and type in any common products or services, and you’ll see aggregate search volumes in the United States and globally are sliding in most categories. (Try it here: Punch in “flowers,” “diamonds,” “auto repair,” and watch the demand curve fall.) This is driven by consumer adoption of social media and online networking as a new, real-time, more-trusted way to find things. Search still works … but like three broadcast TV channels suddenly surrounded by thousands of new cable options, the triad of Google, Yahoo and Bing face stiff competition from your college buddy making recommendations on Facebook.

2. Businesses are market levers. To fight search slippage, Google needs a one-to-many sale. Business organizations are the easiest point of entry to get thousands of users re-enamored with Google free apps … and search.

3. Redmond will get mad. The “Go Google” campaign also hurts Microsoft. You know, that bad boy that just launched the oh-so-sexy Bing. Google can’t be happy to see Redmond finally out with a hot search product, backed by a $100 million ad campaign launch. So Google is slapping Microsoft back where it hurts, in the business software arena.

4. Business users love cell phones. Google is getting buzz. And who is out with a hot new cell phone operating system? Why, Google Android, popping the lid off the smoking-hot Droid phone. Buzz on one side (apps) supports buzz on the other (mobile).

5. And Google needs cell phones to survive. This is the final, most telling point: mobile advertising. Google’s biggest threat is from mobile, where smart phones now come with do-anything apps that provide hundreds of points of entry into the internet … all bypassing the traditional Google search engine. Log on to an app for weather or traffic or sports scores and you’ve likely just skipped over Google.com. In addition, mobile screens are tiny compared to PC screens, so even if you do use Google as your internet on-ramp, there’s less ad space to sell. So Google needs to own the mobile space, and fast.

Four billion proof points

This is no idle threat. There are now more than 4 billion mobile phone subscribers in the world, compared to about 1 billion computers. Wall Street tech guru Mary Meeker just noted that by 2010 we’ll have 10 billion total gadgets with screens in the world … and most won’t have an interface that houses Google search windows on web browsers. Markets with the greatest growth potential, such as China and India, are leaping right over computers to cell phones which are more affordable, just as powerful, and fit into a peripatetic lifestyle. Human interactivity is moving past your old-fashioned computer, and Google’s core business — search with lots of text ads — works best on those soon-to-be-outdated wide screens.

So Google wants office workers to notice that Google is the place to go for apps, and mobile phones, and yes, search. Put apps and mobile together, and you’ve got a survival strategy. Go, Google.

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