Monday, February 26, 2007

What is Google really up to?

The launch of Google Apps Premier last week provoked much speculation about the company's long term strategy. But what, exactly, could that be?

The Observer's John Naughton thinks he knows. "It's about bandwidth, infrastructure and - ultimately - effective control of the net," he writes.

What's the evidence?

1. Google now controls more network fibre than any other organisation on the planet.
2. The company has been building large numbers of 'server farms' with tens of thousands of computers in each.

So, what does this add up to?

The answer is video, according to Naughton.

The big guys are all positioning themselves to take advantage of the massive uptake in online video useage. Online video advertising is predicted to grow from US$1.1bn last year to US$6.2bn by 2010. And that may well be a conservative estimate.

The problem is that with so much heavy data traffic being predicted, the network in its current form won't be able to handle it. The content companies, like News Corp, have what people want but they don't - or won't - have the infrastructure to deliver it. But a business that anticipates this, and has the means to acquire or build that infrastructure, will be in a position to dictate terms of trade to the content owners.

Thus we have an explanation for Google's acquisition of network fibre.

It's not a new one, though. The story about Google's fibre buying spree first surfaced around August 2005. At the time speculation centred on Google outplaying the telcos by becoming the world's biggest ISP. The company offered no comment. Remember, this was before the Youtube phenomenon took off; News Corp had only just bought Myspace. Video was well and truly on the radar, but the concept of TV-like services delivered over the internet was not widely endorsed.

18 months later things have changed, but Google looks like it is still ahead of the game.

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