Disruptive Forces: Google

By Chris Gonsalves Print this article Print


Location: Mountain View, Calif.

CEO: Eric Schmidt

Revenues: $16.6 billion

What they do: Calling Google a search company at this point seems dismissively insulting. But that’s how CEO Schmidt describes the company, adding that it keeps its innovations close to core by always tying new initiatives to the company’s search heritage.

Disruptive qualities: Google doesn’t have all the ideas for business on the Internet—just the good ones. The company has become an innovation machine by encouraging its employees to churn out entrepreneurial ideas: currently about 400 per year. And the best part? Thanks to a restrictive employee agreement, Google owns every single idea.

The further the company stretches, the more industry pundits wonder if it may be losing its way. It’s an innovator’s dilemma that Schmidt knows well. “Google is not a normal company, we’re a company of great ambition around our mission,” Schmidt tells Baseline.

“Internally, we make sure we focus on our core business most of the time. If you think about Google Health, it starts with search. So we look at that and say health is something that really matters, and it can be done in a search-centric way. Google Sites uses search as its organizing principle. So far, we’ve run into very few things where search is not an integral part. Google is, first and foremost, a search company, and that’s as it should be.”

The tech that makes them tick: Search algorithms that simply find what Web surfers want through an infrastructure so big it’s hard to comprehend. With a worldwide infrastructure that boasts between 500,000 and 1 million servers—all running its proprietary file system, data format and BigTable database management platform—Google’s system is fast, highly redundant and resistant to failure. Couple that with readily available APIs for independent software vendors and a growing list of cloud applications and specialized tools, and you have pretty much redefined the Internet.

Who they are disrupting: After crushing every other Internet search service, Google now specializes in punishing traditional advertising companies, client software vendors and traditional IT vendors. It’s not just Microsoft that should be worried.

Grumbling in the Googleplex? Google used to be that cute company with the simple search page that promised it wouldn’t be evil, but its Internet ubiquity now has it in the gun sights of every major tech vendor. In fact, Google is the only reason Microsoft would empty its wallet to bid for the remnants of the once-powerful Yahoo. Google is also facing antitrust investigations here and abroad, and folks are getting skittish about how much data this company owns—especially as it looks to collect sensitive personal information like health records.

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This article was originally published on 2008-03-27
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