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Google: What Are The Interesting Questions These Days?

By - September 24, 2006

Fortune 20061002

Google’s on the cover of Fortune again, this time with the come on that the company is in chaos! No, wait, maybe that’s a good thing…yeah, in fact, it is a good thing! Fortune turns it into a cover package on “managing chaos” that might well have been a Business 2.0 cover….three years ago. Funny that B2 has as it’s cover “The New Disruptors” (just got it in the mail, not online yet)- Google, apparently, is the old disruptor, as Fortune represents the status quo, and B2 the upstarts.

I dunno, but after reading the piece, which was reported as well as is possible given the access given, I felt like I had read the same story I’ve been reading about Google for the past three years – the piece turns on the interesting question of “Do They Have a Plan?” and then fails to answer it definitively (Marissa says Google has a plan, but the evidence ain’t overwhelming). I’m starting to think that maybe we are all asking the wrong question. I’ve been asking that one for some time now, and now I’m thinking there are more interesting ones out there. (There are good tidbits in the piece, for more see Read/Write Web’s write up…)

With that in mind, Eric Schmidt has agreed to be the first keynote interview at this year’s Web 2 conference. I’ll be interviewing him, and I’d love all of your input on what you think I should ask him. What are the interesting questions to ask Google these days?

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26 thoughts on “Google: What Are The Interesting Questions These Days?

  1. Darrin Eden says:

    I’m feeling Google is (or is aiming to be) the world’s IT department. Is Google more than IT services for the rest of us?

    Thanks, D

  2. Dustin says:

    I would like to know why google has turned their backs on small companies targeting specific niches. This was originally a large part of their success, but it seems like they want to drive their business towards big budget, big margin accounts now.

    Background here:
    http://battellemedia.com/archives/002570.php

  3. Joe Hunkins says:

    1. How committed is Google to “never” doing content?
    2. Is is still OK that I shamelessly use his picture with me at my blog home page to make me seem more important than I really am?

  4. 1. What IT businesses will Google never get into?
    2. When will Google launch its operating system?

  5. Hope Google goes up more—Steven Reed has over $1,000 in it!

    Letter to the Editor

    We are looking for Technology Companies who might like to locate to Missouri and also any companies wanting to put some funding into our efforts. I recently spoke at two Springfield City Council meetings about the possibility of establishing and developing a technology park. This project could bring more and better business and job opportunities for all of southwest Missouri. That is why we want people from across the area to consider joining the effort. To help or learn more please go to: http://www.technologypark2006.org and watch for updates that are coming. This project could bring benefits to the nearly half million people in southwest Missouri and more business and revenues to the state in general.

    We must work to compete against other states and nations for the jobs of the future. These technology parks allow incubators which allow for start up companies and they also create new products and processes for making life easier for people. I also think we need to include all the colleges in the area who may want to be part of it. College of the Ozarks, Drury, Evangel, MSU, OTC and others.
    Sincerely,

    Deborah Jean Atwood
    1441 South Estate Avenue
    Springfield, MO 65804
    417-849-4279

    Deborah J. Atwood
    datwood@technologypark2006.org

    Steven L. Reed
    sreed@technologypark2006.org

  6. aaron wall says:

    When Eric argues with the founders, roughly what % of the time is he right? What are the biggest things he has ever been wrong on?

    Would Google ever consider getting into the corporate data intelligence market?

    Given Google’s hoard of cash what is stopping them from creating an AI system to leverage that to automate trading commodities? Will Google ever enter the financial services market?

  7. Danny says:

    I’d be interested in hearing their current views on the Semantic Web, given that it’s the inventor of the Web’s “full potential” vision.

    Personally I’d be tempted to ask on whether search is likely to be anywhere near significant a few years down the line, and whether advertising is a sustainable source of income. Both of these follow from the idea that we’re heading towards a Web of Data. In such a system relevance of advertising can approach 100% so even contextual ads become redundant, and search is less important because fewer things are “lost” in the first place.

  8. Jake says:

    1. Suppose that the Google vs. Microsoft war is a ‘win’ for Google. A win might be defined as ‘MSN search share continues to remain near 10%, and any hits on adwords/adsense margins are low’. In a world where Google wins on the web, what’s the next step?

    2. Most of the access providers on the internet currently seem to be desperately focused on changing their business from a low margin one with destructive competition into one with high margins and monopolistic control. We see the inklings of this in the political fight over net neutrality.

    At the same time, we see baby steps into access from Google, with the company dabbling in things like muni wi-fi, deals with AOL, or even everyone’s favorite slashdot fodder, dark fiber.

    Is Google positioning itself to become some sort of access 2.0 company? What would that even look like?

    If Google and Yahoo aren’t going into access, how will they deal with an access industry which is increasingly moving away from virtuous cycle style thinking (like we see with Google and Yahoo, and even Microsoft) and moving towards an attitude which is a lot more reminiscent of your better 19th century railroad tycoon?

    3. Google is getting awfully big lately, and probably a lot less limber as you get bigger. How are you going to stop yourself from turning into Yahoo or Microsoft?

    4.. Larry and Sergei kick you out, or Google is hit by a meteor. You survive, and are given your choice of companies to head up as tech CEO. If you could be the CEO of:

    - Yahoo
    - Amazon
    - Microsoft
    - E-bay
    - AOL
    - Ask Jeeves

    Which you pick, and why?

  9. 1. Does Google fear internal threats or external threats more?

    2. How much does he ascribe Google’s success to pure luck and how much to astute management?

  10. Mr. Battelle, would you be kind enough to ask Mr. Schmidt about Google’s biotech ambitions? That is my guess about Google’s coming out in biotech: http://href.hu/x/1rw0

  11. Google Tenancy’s in Adwords…
    Hi John,

    I’d be interested in hearing his views on whether Google Adwords system charged customers a “tenancy” by accident or design?

    Was the system made to discriminate against new advertisers and advertisers that run “campaigns” rather than continuous activity?

    The Adwords system is very heavily weighted towards the history of each campaign. For popular search terms where there are a large number of advertisers, any company starting a new campaign will have to “bid up” well beyond the price that the incumbants of the top 3 positions are paying, as they will not have the history, or the clickrate to support their campaign. The more advertisers there are, the worse the effect is, it can take weeks to get a campaign going properly and cost a decent percentage of the campaign budget as well.

    History doesn’t just effect campaigns that are about to start, it is important to the onrunning success of a campaign. For this reason I am very suspicious of the benefits that can be achieved by “day parting” campaings, as it seems logical that the benefits from a better ROI will be outweighed by the increased costs associated with a damaged history.

    Companies are forced into continuous advertising (not great if the product is out of stock, targets have been met, budgets hit) because the cost of stopping the campaign will be that the advertiser will have to pay a tenancy again to get their campaign running properly.

    This is a particular problem for agencies that run short tactical campaigns as they have to sink a large proportion of their budgets, paying over the odds CPCs to get their listings high enough to get into the mix (another way of shutting them out?).

    Looking at the big picture in the longer term, more companies are going to wise up to this and will run continuous campaigns…

    What effect will that have on Google’s bottom line?

    Sorry I rambled on a bit, but hope it is slightly clearer than mud!

    Kind regards,

    Richard

  12. Narayana.D says:

    I would like to know –

    (1) Does Google have plans (bet its already in place) getting into full fledge Travel Search? If so When?

    (2) What would be their USP in comparision to a Mobissimo,Kayak, FareCast, SideStep etc.,?

  13. Sal says:

    Why follow yahoo’s footsteps and not be original? I’m talking about making users sign in to use their services. It creates total lack of privacy for users while limits the experience to the network, in this case it’s google.com . The info is not sharable with other networks (sites). The collected information to personalized results does not include the desktop.

  14. Keith Cash says:

    Google could be a vitual IT department. Google could compete with some of the large IT outsourcing firms. This would be large contracts, with multi-year revenue.
    Just a thought.

    I would like to know more about the operating system?

  15. Jean-Marie Le Ray says:

    Hi John,

    Please, can you ask him if Google H9 code name really stands for the ULTIMATE SEARCH ENGINE project! (Explanation here) And, if yes, what’s the heck behind it. I asked the same question to Larry and Sergey (@google.com) but they didn’t answer me :-)
    Jean-Marie

  16. Salman FF says:

    To be truly disruptive in a market, (it is well understood that) you need to start at the low end of the market before climbing up to dislocate the ‘big’ incumbents. That’s how Google’s advertising engine / network became so powerful. But Google seems to be acting in a non-disruptive way in two important high growth markets, by concentrating on ‘big corporate deals’ with ‘big corporate customers’ – those markets are: Video, where it is striking deals with the likes of MTV, and online (non-text) advertising, where it is wooing big customers like GM.

    Question: Does this mean that Google cannot disrupt these two important markets? Does Eric believe that those markets are just un-disrupt-able? Or is Google just playing the role of the incumbent (ie accepting a slower growth strategy) while waiting for other start-ups to disrupt those markets?

  17. Zack says:

    I would be very interested in the breakdown of their revenue by product. Beyond search, I want to know which, if any, of their products are generating any revenue. As a Google investor, I’d be much more inclined to hold on to their stock if I saw gmail or maps (local), for instance, hauling in some decent cash.

  18. steve says:

    please ask him to verify/deny the story that as late as fall 2001, he, the founders and the board of google had decided that enterprise software/corporate search was the best business model for google (explains schmidt’s hiring as google ceo, doesn’t it?) and that advertising was a loser

    the story goes that schmidt himself met with google ad execs in NYC in fall 2001 to deliver message from him, founders and board to abandon ad model and dismantle sales organization — and that only google’s own internal chaos prevented that from happening before the ad model exploded and the modern google as we know it was born…

  19. Steve says:

    John–ask Eric if Chris Sacca ever gave him, Larry, and Sergey the opportunity to take a look at PPC 2.0 Match Engine Marketing/Paid Match before Chris nicely informed me it probably wasn’t suitable for Google.

    Since such an ad system; because it will allow advertisers to quickly, easily, and directly reach customers by permission-targeting and bidding on their actual traits and characteristics instead of having to settle for indirectly trying to reach them by targeting the words and numbers they enter into search boxes; could pose the greatest risk (and greatest opportunity) to Google since the birth of GoTo/PPC, it of course should be something carefully vetted by the entire executive team before coming to such a potentially risky conclusion.

    Thanks,
    Steve

  20. Artyom says:

    Hi,

    my question is how Google plans to handle with increasing amount of information which he grabs at his Index?

    As I see, the main goal for GG is still the same – to show a searcher what he’s looking for, BUT if is it really possible to give a searcher the best solutions now OR it’s about people have to make an ultimate desicion by their own and it will remain the same in a future?

  21. Vadim says:

    1. In your book you are saying that the search potential is only about 5%. How many years according to Eric Shmidt it may take to reach at least 50%?
    2. Future of desktop Office suits (mainly MS Office)? Does Eric Shmidt believe that web 2.0 applications like Writly and electronic spreadsheets may really have a considerable market share?
    3. Is Google Talk may be considered as a failure according to the numbers:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/24/technology/24yahoo.html
    ?ex=1311393600&en=59f037c1cd98257f&ei=5090&partner=
    rssuserland&emc=rss
    4. Google in China: how Eric Shmidt explain s the current defeat? Is there something in common amongst the countries, where Google is very weak (China, Korea, Russia etc)?
    5. Can Windows Vista with integrated Live search stop the Google’s search market share growth?
    6. Who, according to Eric Shmitd, can be considered as more tough competitor in search field: Microsoft or Yahoo?
    7. Gmail contextual adds look mostly irrelevant. What’s the problem?

    Thanks

  22. Jethro says:

    Rate of Change

    Please ask Eric about increasing the rate of change at a company that thrives on change and is constantly adding on to itself. Does he feel the ability to be agile and adapt in the web space is crucial to future success? Has the lack of agility and creativity from other such as Yahoo helped Google? For example, Yahoo not being able to close the deal for YouTube.

    Thanks, Jeff

  23. DavidT says:

    John,

    Please ask him about what leadership role Google will take in protecting people’s privacy and in particular their search profiles. I haven’t seen nearly as much as I had hoped on the implications of AOL’s search data / user profile release. I am frightened by Google’s “database of intentions” as you so well put it and hope they can be sure in the future to “do no evil” by making it their standard policy and challenging other search companies to destroy that data within a reasonable period of time (3 months, 6 months, or a year perhaps) to protect all of us “innocent” Google users.

    Thanks. David

  24. Nellie Lide says:

    I love google – but I really want to know if sometimes the head folks at google feel a little disappointed in themselves that the only way they could make money on the Internet was to sell advertising? The Internet somehow seems better than that. Thanks, Nellie

  25. Li Evans says:

    Hi John,

    I’m wondering the following:
    What are Google’s plans for combining the new rising popularity of Social Networking with Search? In light of their recent aquistion of YouTube, deal with Newscorp, Inc. and creation of Google Co-op, does Google want to integrate and entrench their brand into all areas of Social Networking?

    Thanks!
    ~Li

  26. Roman says:

    Recently Google opened the second R&D in Russia, making Russia the second country after the U.S. to have two engineering centers. It’d be interesting to ask Mr.Schmidt about the long-term implications and next steps in Google’s global expansion. Thanks, John!