Google 2015: what will it look like?

I worked at post-DOJ-spanked Microsoft. I saw firsthand how wimpy Bill Gates got (I had a lunch with him and Mike Arrington where we talked about whether Microsoft would let us acquire interesting new companies. “No way” was the basic answer. Funny that back then they could have purchased Skype for $2 billion, not listening cost them $6.5 billion).

Today Jason Calacanis is taking Google to task for being naughty.

It’s worse than that Jason. Google is behaving like Microsoft. It isn’t buying the most interesting new startups (VMware is, having purchased SocialCast today, after SlideRocket and Mozy). It has done pretty sizable harm to its first service, search, and Microsoft is even kicking ass on its mapping technology.

So, what could Google in 2015 look like?

Jason lays out one vision of what Google could look like in four years: a nice company that helps the entire industry grow together.

Let’s be honest. Big companies don’t do what’s right (translation: I don’t think Google will listen to Jason). Why not?

Go into the heads of a big-company employee. Do they want to do the hard work of starting a new initiative? No. Do they want to take the personal risk to go into Larry Page and ask him to do something he isn’t already doing? No. Do they want to go into Larry and say “hey, Larry, we’ve screwed up in social and we’re screwing up in search, we need to do some small things to addict people to our services?” No. In fact, does anyone want to pitch Larry in doing something small, like it seemed Instagram was when we all first saw it? Or Foursquare? Or Twitter? Come on, how many of you, when you first saw those things, said to someone else “that’s gonna be a big company some day?” I didn’t even though I was in the first 15,000 to have a Twitter account. Even if I had, it’s one thing to be a tech blogger or a geek in Palo Alto and it’s a whole nother thing to go and pitch Larry Page and say those things.

Even worse, will the average employee at a big company tell the lawyers to sit down and shut up? Nope, not in my experience.

What’s small today? Here’s a list over on Quora (I’m seeing Ashton Kutcher soon, so asked for startups to pitch me their stuff). Quick, any of these gonna be big companies someday? How do you know? Who made you an expert? I hang out with experts and even they really don’t know. Quick, what was Facebook when it first came out? “A way to meet girls at Harvard.” You really were gonna fund that? Even Ron Conway got involved after it went to other colleges.

Anyway, what will Google look like in 2015?

First, what will the trends be for the next four years?

1. Mobile will get bigger screens, more capabilities, and many more users will have more than 100 apps (today only the weirdos like me do, the industry even has a name for us, they call us “heavy app users”).
2. Home entertainment systems will increasingly go completely Internet connected and many people will unplug their cable systems.
3. All media will be streamed, very few users will have downloadable files anymore.
4. There will be “apps of apps.” In other words, there will be apps that join many apps together. Already that’s happening. When I take photos with Instagram I can send those photos over to Foodspotting, Trey Ratcliffe’s photo app, amongst others. Om Malik wrote about that trend yesterday.
5. Social networking will be far more nuanced than it is today. I saw one startup, coming soon, that figured out who people I worked with 10 years ago were. All by just looking at Facebook. How? Artificial Intelligence from a lab at Stanford University.
6. We’re going to know EVERYTHING about ourselves, if we put the data in. Just this past weekend there was a Quantified Self conference with hundreds of attendees (held just a couple of miles from Google’s headquarters).
7. Automobiles will have more interactivity and more “assisted driving technology” than today, but the fully automatic self-driven car will still be years away for the average person due to cost.
8. 3DTV will continue to struggle, due to lack of content and the continued requirement to wear glasses on most screens.
9. Our social graphs will bring us much richer experiences. Going to Sonoma? You’ll know exactly where your friends have visited in the past and you’ll be able to see where celebrities like Mark Zuckerberg or Ashton Kutcher have visited.
10. News has shifted very heavily toward socially-influenced real time displays like Zite, Flipboard, Feedly, etc, on tablets.

So, which ones is Google doing well at today in 2011?

Mobile? Oh, yeah, Google is doing pretty well here. They aren’t the thought leaders, but are the market share leaders.
Home entertainment? Nope. Xbox rules here and Apple TV is the up and comer. Google’s efforts are too expensive and too geeky to use.
Media streaming? Nope. Google isn’t a major player yet. Netflix, Spotify, etc prove that Google hasn’t made major inroads here yet and Apple is about to really demonstrate how lame Google’s efforts in music have been so far. Even Amazon is making Google look bad.
Apps of apps? Nope, I don’t see Google leading anything here. If anything the startups are making it happen. Heck, even Twilio and Simple Geo are showing innovation in areas where Google should be dominant.
Nuanced social networks? Um, Google isn’t even in the game in social yet, not to mention making social networks that are letting us do something Facebook isn’t.
Quantified self services? Richer social graphs? Google hasn’t even figured that out, even though Google was an early leader here with its health efforts.
Automobiles? Google has the self-driving cars, which are good for PR, but, who has been putting units INTO today’s cars? Microsoft and RIM. Not Google.
3DTV. Google is actually a leader here, with YouTube enabling new kinds of content. But, is this an area that really will matter? It sure doesn’t look like it will anytime soon.
New news displays. Google isn’t a player here yet.

So, will Google take the “bad door” and continue doing things that are anti-competitive and anti-consumer, which will invite even more government scrutiny of our industry or will they take the “good door” and actually start innovating in these areas?

Can someone call me and tell me what Google of 2015 will look like?

I so want Google to be innovative again, but it sure doesn’t look like it will be. What do you think?

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

52 thoughts on “Google 2015: what will it look like?

  1. I agree with the overbloated services that go nowhere. Just look at Buzz, +1, favorites, bookmarks, Reader note, Reader likes, Reader shared

  2. “Funny, normal people want to meet Ashton.”

    Really?   What “normal people” would those be?   Using your standard for facts, I don’t know anyone that wants to meet Kutcher.

  3. “Apps of apps? Nope, I don’t see Google leading anything here. If anything the startups are making it happen. Heck, even Twilio and Simple Geo are showing innovation in areas where Google should be dominant.”

    “Apps of apps” as you call it is baked into Android, through the send/share to app feature and intents which give the option to choose an app to complete a task. This mixing and matching of Android activities (as they’re called) was there all the way back in Cupcake, and even appeared on the Android prototype where the UI still looked like Blackberry, so calling it one of the main features of the OS wouldn’t be a stretch. 

  4. Robert this made me think of something I’ve seen at big companies over the years re PR budgets.  It’s always the business units that make the most money that have the biggest PR budgets.  Often the most interesting, cool, future stuff isn’t being marketed because they aren’t the cash cows; meanwhile the cash cows aren’t that interesting or newsworthy anymore.  It’s tough finding people internally who can change that bass-ackwards thinking!

  5. 2015? maybe a couple more years or so, or maybe it would have happened by then- Google bails out Apple, the way Microsoft bailed out Apple back in the day. How do you spell two-time loser? A-P-P-L-E

  6. Funny, normal people want to meet Ashton. You sound like a Silicon Valley developer who hasn’t developed anything for the mainstream yet.

    1. “You sound like a Silicon Valley developer who hasn’t developed anything for the mainstream yet.” << new favorite stereotype.

  7. Am I to understand that you believe that I will no longer want or need to download something to look at later? That’s a fail. Your comment assumes that for me as a content provider, I have a way to stream at no cost. That’s just not the case, and I’m not talking just about monetarily, either. Some of what I do requires that I download various files for whatever reason. It seems to me that you’re comments are locking all of us in as one type of user. 

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  9. solid list of trends – two I’d add (more technologies that are becoming interesting than trends) – machine learning and probabilistic programming. technology is about to start becoming much more human, anticipating our needs and intent. those two technologies will be pivotal to that shift.  

  10. Google, is a giant public company. In order for it to do any of the things you’ve listed, they would have to take some pretty big risks. But shareholders (Wall Street) don’t always respond well to their companies taking such risks. So I’m not sure how you can expect them to do any of those things. Like all big companies, they become too big for their own good.

  11. Excellent think piece. Your most salient point is about how difficult it is to innovate in large companies. In my experience, the legal teams are not especially known for their vision or technology aptitude.

  12. Vintage pundit-speak, Scoble.

    Though there are interesting points here, I fail to see the significance, overall, to speculate where Google will be in 2015. As for Jason’s article, which I just read, his blatant biased and (often) emotionally charged rhetoric is grounds for dismissal for any argument he puts forth. He is running a content-farm, until recently, his content farm was his site, now – with 1000′s of videos on YouTube, his content farmground is Google’s video platform. It’s all an RPM game and has no glory or honor on the Internet.

    There’s one thing you can count on with a company like Google that you can’t count on in a company like Mahalo – Google will address real industry issues and innovate solid solutions; some will work, some will fail. That’s what they do. Cloud Computing & Apps, Android, Search, Ad Networks — and since these are actual problems that need solutions, Google will make money, lots of it. Even in 2015, well long after Sequoia Capital moves on to better, more honorable projects; you can count on the fact that Google will have solid products revolving around things we’ve needed, whether we realized it or not.  

  13. I’m hoping that having Larry Page back in the driver’s seat will help Google return to its innovative roots. There is no reason that Google shouldn’t be a player in social… makes no sense at all.

  14. With Larry Page only picking up the reins this year, and reorganizing the top of the Google power structure, the future of Google could change from the current predictions. Not that it necessarily will. 

    As much as people lament that Google is no longer run like a startup, in many ways they do act this way with launches. Products take on big goals (Gmail, Android, Wave, Buzz, TV), are limited in their audience at the start, and then iterate. Gmail/Docs has been successful. Long “beta” but great interaction with users through Lab experiments, continually rolling popular features and functions into the stable product. 

    Some products that haven’t done well: Wave, Buzz, TV – largely stalled after initial release. (Granted, these are also their more recent initiatives, so maybe the plan has changed.) Wave was shut down/handed off to Apache, Buzz is idle, and while TV updates are coming, that market has more problems than software. If all the content providers tell users “no” to their programming it can’t succeed the way it is imagined. Maybe it’s as simple as realizing people want Apple TV-like features and price rather than a device that can do more things (many which people don’t care about) for more money. 

    That doesn’t even get cover the “gDrive” which somewhat exists now with uploads into Docs, but doesn’t get branded that way. Or Picasa which could use some love but feels like it _almost_ is really good. Or Chrome, which has been well adopted. I can’t imagine not having Google Voice and Apple doesn’t have a competitor to that, although you can send emails/IM and pictures, and maybe Apple will start transcribing voicemails with Siri/Nuance. 
     
    It just seems like it’s a mistake to paint all of Google with the same brush. Be it the good or bad brush. 

  15. “Google has the self-driving cars, which are good for PR, but, who has been putting units INTO today’s cars? Microsoft and RIM. Not Google.”
    dude, google has units in audi and bmw. the audi a7 actually is a wi-fi enabled car. wake up a bit there scoble. just go to youtube and type in a7 and off ya go. cnet did a review earlier this month on it.

  16. While I disagree with you several points, none more than “Microsoft is even kicking on its mapping technology.”  Did you even try to use the product?  I’ve never seen a more confusing implementation since Amazon’s original A9.  No smooth transitions while changing views, and Microsoft has a fraction of the coverage and image quality of Google.

    You also state that Google isn’t a player is media streaming?  Have you ever heard of YouTube?

    Quite frankly, this is the quality and content of a post belonging to Henry Blodget.

  17. I think Google is a highly focussed company, they want to concentrate on what they do best search/advertising and as far as social is concerned, they are not trying to copy facebook, they are trying to build social graphs using their various services in which they are strong like google docs, gmail(people widget for example), search, google places etc. Microsoft was not a highly focussed company. 

    In fact Google has acquired a lot of companies in 2010http://blogs.wsj.com/deals/2011/01/05/google-was-the-busiest-startup-acquirer-of-2010/

    Besides Google already has access to all of twitters data, and they can buy it sometime in thfuture and cut some sort of similar deals with other social companies like foursquare, infact I see other social companies looking to google for help to escape from the facebook ‘bully’. Facebook by the way is as scared of google as google is of facebook, just look at the PR firm scandal.

  18. Google is in a lot of places. Some argue too many places. But you can see their focus is clear, especially with the recent IO conference. Beyond search, their efforts are in Chrome, Android and YouTube. (keeping the list simple)

    They are a large company. They are a public company. This results in them looking at billion-plus dollar businesses, which most of the small, innovative suggestions in Quora won’t be. The truth is that Google doesn’t need to do everything to be successful.

    When I look at “the future of” anything, it’s not hard to say it’ll be cloud related, mobile, intelligent, connected, social, etc. Google has as good a chance as most in any of those pieces. I love Spotify and understand negotiations with labels have been a pain both for getting them to US and in Amazon and Google doing everything they would like. Neither of us was in the room, but it appears Apple paid top dollar.

    Google is doing things other companies aren’t daring enough to do, the same way Apple is doing things other companies aren’t daring enough to do. Apple wouldn’t make self-driving cars. Apple isn’t interested in delivering Web-centric computers. Apple hasn’t been interested in offering options in phones. Even if it is assumed they have the best, they don’t give users a choice – nor on tablets, where I actually prefer 7 inch tablets versus 10, etc.

    I have Apple TV and Google TV and TiVo. I use each for different tasks, but it’s been a long time since I heard Apple TV as an up and comer, even if its agreed upon that Google TV hasn’t had the impact they wanted so far.

    So what do you want them to do? I think pushing them to buy all the little guys (Quora, Twitter, Foursquare, Instagram??) isn’t the right move. Many many companies (SimpleGeo, etc.) are going to be made outside big company walls, and they should grow. But the scale of Google (and Apple and Facebook and Linkedin, etc.) should allow for those companies to do some very interesting things to impact many many folks. Google doesn’t look like a timid company to me.

    1. Using my iPad and the TED app, or many other apps (MLB, ShowYou, etc) I can click a button and it instantly starts playing on my Apple TV. No other system can do that. Plus, it only costs $99. The Google TV (and I have one of those, Boxee Box, Roku, and a few others) cost me almost $300 and doesn’t do what I want. Apple TV is going to be a major winner because of its hooks with iOS. Google has nothing like it.

      Yeah, they can either listen to me today and buy small companies when they are affordable, or they can do what BIll Gates and team did: ignore me and pay billions more later. 

      I went to Google IO and it fell flat for me and many others.

      1. You’re describing AirPlay. Good stuff. Works well on my Sonos S5. :)

        Google TV will be running Honeycomb soon, which will probably bring with it a ton of apps. Sounds like fun. I don’t have more insight than what I saw at IO as well.

        As for the conference, I recognize their target is the developers, not consumers, much like WWDC used to be. Their message could improve, of course, but ChromeOS is a huge initiative, and they delivered. Android is winning in the numbers. I would love to hear more qualitative discussions from the company, and I bet we will in the future.

        1. Android isn’t winning in all the numbers. Profitability? Nope. Apps used per device? Nope. App startups supporting it? Nope. etc etc etc.

          1. facebook is great, but way overrated especially by the investors, most of the investor interest in facebook is because they missed out on investing in google cheaply and they don’t want to miss out on investing in the next big thing, they don’t want to look like fools again. Of the 4 big platform companies today Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook, I find Facebook to be the weakest, microsoft is weak, but has lots of money to throw about(money from the ultra profitable office 
            franchise) and become a player(like buying skype). The future is going to be dominated by the duopoly of Google and Apple with Microsoft a player just because of its money power.Twitter search is probably a bigger threat to google than facebook search.

          2. The money factor for developers is certainly an interesting constraint. Everyone wants something for free, especially a community that tends to be technical and knows how to search for the best deal. 

            As for Google making money, Android generally solidifies to use of many other Google Services. That retention is key to the long term success of Google. This is not much different than the Microsoft Strategy that has worked well for decades. Google is creating platforms as the entries to services that complement each other like a Suite. GMail is the consumer Exchange, almost everyone uses it. Google will give away areas to make money in others.

        2. Airplay is nice but I can use the service with Windows Media Center and DoubleTwist on Android. Granted not for the average consumer but I’ve found a way to use Airplay without an Apple Device. 

  19. Two out of the top 5 fastest growing jobs through 2018 are in home-healthcare(http://bo.st/jEQTUl). The aging Baby Boomer population will have a huge effect on our economy. Money talks and this is where Id place my bets. Google’s powerful technology and workforce could have a great impact on how this generation ages. Pretty cool stuff. 

  20. Opinion junkies are thanking you for the fix. Video is cool but not as engaging. The first half of this piece is (should be) a blog post on to itself BTW. Going by your very accurate analysis, even if I pitched the “next big tech company” to you and Ashton Kutcher, you’d likely both snob it.

  21. Seems like you should give lots of ‘streaming’ points to google for youtube. They still lead the pack on this and I don’t see a real competitor emerging anytime soon. 

    1. I didn’t realize I could live stream on YouTube. Seems Justin.tv and Ustream, among others, are ahead here. 

      But, yeah, YouTube is my favorite video upload and streaming site, it’s just that it’s not the most innovative one out there.

      1. i guess there’s a difference between ‘live’ streaming and regular streaming. most people need regular streaming most of the time. I like Ustream and Justin.tv, but EVERYONE uses youtube constantly… 

  22. A few days ago, I needed a paypal logo for a website I’m working on. The bit-mapped ones I had just didn’t look sharp enough for this site. I Googled to find a vector version. Every one I clicked on took over my computer and tried to down-load scareware to it. This is the future of Google. A sewer of malware, like windows, only ten times worse. I also think that Google is intentionally ignoring this “MacDefender” type malware, because it affects Macs. 

  23. As the cofounder of social travel site gtrot – I’m excited to see you mention this “9. Our social graphs will bring us much richer experiences. Going to
    Sonoma? You’ll know exactly where your friends have visited in the past
    and you’ll be able to see where celebrities like Mark Zuckerberg or
    Ashton Kutcher have visited.”. We’re thinking there is a huge opportunity here too!

    On another note, I think Google (or Microsoft) has a big opportunity in cross-platform software. Creating the software that runs your TV, mobile, tablet, oven, air conditioning, car, etc. Is huge. Apple does this really well with TV-Mobile-Computer but bringing great UX to all appliances and being able to share information across platform could be a huge win. The more comfortable people get with the software on one device, the easier it is to use it on multiple devices.

  24. It would seem energy and healthcare would be the two major trends driving these forward. Wouldn’t it be wise to pick the need and then solve for the most profitable solution, rather than play catch up now? 

      1. Hard times have hit. Google has done nothing with Google Health, which could have been an enormous help to people.  They ought to get back involved.  They also had a power plant initiative and I don’t know where that went. I think they are now caught between fine tuning search to hold on to their revenues and investing in new initiatives.  If I were Google, I’d roll up a few Health IT companies, especially EMR and PHR and work with medicare/medicaid to improve health care.  That would get DOJ off them in a heartbeat.

  25. Scoble, it is ironic you wrote this.  While I am not as sure as you are about some of these things, the writing on the wall for me lately has been with Google Maps.  Using the MapMaker has got me pretty upset with the way things will seemingly be in a ‘Google world’, in the future.  I am working with our state government to get a cutting edge mapping platform brought into being but I can’t wrap my head around using Google Maps.  Why?  Because for every edit our emergency managers make, our citizens, etc… it all still belongs to Google.  We have to subsequently licence it to use it again later/in another place.  Solutions like OpenStreetMap seems to make much more sense.  While it doesn’t have the power of Google behind it, like Wikipedia, it does have a life of it’s own and I don’t see how Google can replace it.  I guess time will tell.  

    So here is my blasphemous statement of the day.  People will catch on.  Open Source and the Crowd will start to win (again).  Web 2.0 will have a resurgence and like in it’s early days, it will be largely without the help of Google (exception of Search).  

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