25 March 2019
Is this the future for Google? The tech giant is growing more than we think. Photo: Bloomberg
Is this the future for Google? The tech giant is growing more than we think. Photo: Bloomberg

Google: The making of an 800-pound gorilla

Google began as a search engine — a very good one at that. But 16 years later, it’s better known for its apps and for a host of acquisitions, mostly unrelated to its DNA.

YouTube, Android, maps, Chrome, Gmail, Motorola and Glass helped Google grow out of a narrow business model to become a ubiquitous presence in everyday life.

In search, YouTube is outflanked only by Google. Android is the world’s most popular smartphone platform, Chrome is used by nearly half of all internet surfers and Gmail is the most widely used e-mail app.

The jury is still out on Motorola and Glass, Google’s foray into wearables that is spooking a lot of people for its potential for spying and voyeurism.

But this much is clear: Google is growing and insinuating itself into our lives more than we think.

If we think its self-driven car, unveiled Thursday, is harmless and funny, here’s the thing: it’s not a car or an outsized electric toaster but the future of physical commuting. But mind-blowing as it looks, it has nothing on virtual travel, which will take us to any place without leaving home. It’s no longer science-fiction.

But none of this feels too close for comfort more than Google’s increased focus on our homes. The motivation is a lucrative payoff in a market potentially worth US$71 billion by 2018.

Google’s key to this market is Nest, a smart home start-up it acquired in February for U$3.2 billion. Nest makes an intelligent thermostat that adjusts to users’ preferences, giving Google a head start over Apple which has similar designs on hour homes.

The grand vision of the rival tech giants is an ecosystem of home appliances and control devices that talk to each other to create a custom home environment.

Already, Google is an energy player with scattered investments in key utilities and Nest gives it a back-door access to the wider market.

So next time you turn on the lights, you might be powering up on Google, the search engine that is everything else.

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