In the space of just a few short years, Google knocked Microsoft off its throne to become arguably the world's most powerful - possibly the most feared - technology company with involvement in a vast array of different areas. The company describes its mission as "to develop services that significantly improve the lives of as many people as possible". To that end it has built upon its core offering to spin out a kaleidoscope of additional services, ranging from global mapping and Android mobile software to healthcare research and driverless cars. Uniquely, for now at least, virtually all its add-ons are free to use, paid for by the awe-inspiring success of the company's advertising programme. Google may not be the world's biggest online company by revenues (that's still Amazon) but it's the most valuable by far with a market value of over $460bn by mid 2015. Yet Google's position at the top of the digital advertising tree is under threat from an even faster-growing business, Facebook. At the same time, its steps into hardware development have so far been patchy. In 2011, the group took steps to monetise Android by acquiring one of its first licensors, US handset manufacturer Motorola. Less than two years later, though, it sold that business on to Lenovo of China after failing to boost performance. Its Google Glass computer-powered eyewear also failed to find a ready audience. In 2015, the group announced plans to restructure, splitting out its more fanciful research-based operations as separate units under the umbrella of new parent company Alphabet Inc.
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Adbrands Weekly Update 15th Nov 2018: Google parent Alphabet confirmed plans to launch the first US commercial driverless taxi service through its Waymo division before the end of the year. The service will initially launch in Phoenix, Arizona, where Waymo has spent years testing its technology, and then gradually roll out to other US cities. The company said it had already received considerable interest from corporate customers keen to use the service for staff transportation.
Adbrands Social Media 27th Oct 2018: "The Power To Wonder". Droga5 is responsible for this lovely little film for Google's (highly rated) new Pixel 3 smartphone. That voiceover won't probably mean anything to non-US viewers, but to almost every American under the age of 60 it's the sound of their childhood. 'Mr Rogers' Neighborhood' was a staple of children's television for more than 30 years until 2001, running to almost 900 episodes. In each show Fred Rogers would muse on different aspects of everyday life and attempt to explain them in songs and simple words to his rapt young audience. The Pixel 3's Google Lens object recognition software hopes to offer something similar for a more tech-savvy age, albeit without the same down-home folksiness.
Adbrands Weekly Update 11th Oct 2018: So farewell then Google+. Google said it will suspend consumer functionality of Google+, its ill-fated and long-struggling attempt to rival Facebook in social media. (The timing is unclear: Google+ was still live this morning). The final nail in the coffin appears to have been a Wall Street Journal scoop revealing that a loophole in the site's software. This had inadvertently given third-party software developers the ability to access personal data for all 500,000 users for three years until Google's engineers discovered the loophole in March and fixed it. However senior managers controversially decided not to make the issue public for fear of attracting the attention of regulators. Following the WSJ's story, Google said it was justified in not alerting users because there had been no evidence of any misuse of the data.
Adbrands Weekly Update 30th Aug 2018: In his latest attack on the "Fake News" media, President Trump accused Google, Facebook and even his own beloved Twitter of suppressing conservative voices in favour of left-wing negative criticism of his presidency. "In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD. Fake CNN is prominent.... They are controlling what we can & cannot see. This is a very serious situation - will be addressed!" Later he told reporters that the sites were "treading on very, very troubling territory" and warned "They better be careful because you can't do that to people." Google denied any political bias. "We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment." Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher summed up the state of affairs neatly in a solid op-ed piece for the New York Times: "Here’s the truest conundrum of the social media age: Those who complain loudest about being silenced never ever shut up."
Adbrands Weekly Update 2nd Aug 2018: Results from Google parent Alphabet were impacted by a $5bn charge to cover its recent fine from EU regulators. As a result, net income slipped 9% to $3.2bn. However, excluding that one-off charge, earnings were well above analysts' expectations, as were revenues, which hit a new quarterly high of almost $32.7bn, up 26% year on year.
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