Chrome, Android, and The Cloud
A journalist friend of mine once said about Google "they are a freak of a company, the best advertising business ever built is funding the largest collection of mad scientists ever assembled". I love that description of Google and have used it many times. But it suggests that Google is chaos and I don't think that is true at all.
Google is building a collection of web apps, like gmail, gcal, and google docs, that businesses are increasingly relying on. My personal goal this year is to get our firm completely off of the office suite and into the google suite. As builders of web apps, Google understands that the infrastructure for the deployment and operation of web apps just isn't there yet.
And so they are doing something about it in three important places.
1) They are building a modern browser, Chrome, that resembles an operating system as much as a browser. If you haven't read the Chrome Comic Book, you should do that. It's not that Google wants to build a better version of Internet Explorer or Firefox. They want to build a better environment for running web apps.
2) They are building a mobile operating system, Android, that is also designed for running web apps in a mobile environment. I think in time, Google's Android will be to the iPhone what Windows was to the Mac. The iPhone laid out many of the killer mobile device innovations, but its a closed device, a closed carrier relationship, and even a closed application store. Android will take all of those good ideas and put them on every device, with every carrier, and in partnership with every app developer. You'd have thought that Apple would have learned the lesson that you can't control the entire ecosystem with the Mac, but they did not.
3) Google is all about the cloud. They have developed all of their apps in what goes for the cloud these days. They've build a great cloud computing platform in App Engine. And they will certainly support other cloud computing environments that emerge. Google's DNA (like Intel's DNA) is about supporting an entire ecosystem. The more web apps that are built, the better Google will do. So they will do anything and everything they can to support the development of a robust cloud computing environment for web apps.
It is on this three legged stool (browser, mobile, cloud) that Google's future will be built. And sitting here today, it seems like they are well organized and have a great strategy for doing just that.
Full Disclosure: I am long Google.