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PC to Laptop to Mobile: Google’s Landscape is Changing

March 27, 2015 - Written By Cory McNutt

When most people hear the name, “Google,” they immediately think of a search engine, or that box on your web page that you type in any subject and press ‘Enter.’  And while you would be correct in assuming that Google is that search engine, they are so much more.  However you look at Google’s billions of dollars, they are first and foremost an advertising arm and the majority of their profits come from selling the information they can gather to corporations.

Google has been around for quite a while and started off with the PC landscape, where most of us did our web browsing in…you got it…our browsers!  Google could ‘watch’ where we traveled on our web browsers and their software was designed accordingly – tracking our every moves from website to website.  When federal antitrust regulators looked into the web browsing practices of Google three years ago, they found out that Google’s dominance was even more so they had thought.

The WSJ had said back then, “the Federal Trade Commission’s bureau of competition that found Google had “strengthened its monopolies over search and search advertising through anticompetitive means” in a way that would have “lasting negative effects on consumer welfare.”  Google was even so bold as to say that they were happy that the research firm, comScore Inc. generally underestimated Google’s market share – comScore had it set at 65-percent, while Google estimated their share to be more like 69-84-percent.

What is happening is as more and more users keep their PCs and laptops turned off and use tablets and especially smartphones, they are no longer using their web browser where Google’s stronghold still stands.  Smartphone users tend to use apps more often, where Google is only beginning to figure out a new angle.  Apps tend to be like a self-contained community with no links for Google to follow. ComScore estimates the average user spends about 20-percent of their smartphone time staying within the Facebook app.  Most apps have their own search feature, like Amazon or the apps used to book hotel rooms and travel trips.

Because of Google’s Android mobile operating system, which is on about 80-percent of the mobile phones, they can flood users with their own apps, such as Google Maps, YouTube and Gmail.  If a user does open their web browser on their smartphone, Google’s presence is even more dominate by grabbing about 84-percent of the searches according to StatCounter.  This outcome has a lot to do with Google’s ‘arm-twisting’ tactics, such as agreements made with smartphone manufacturers and PC builders that restricted the use of other search engines.

One of the main reasons that the FTC does not come after Google is that many customers want Google as the search engine of choice because Google is in the best position to provide “the right” ad for the “right” user at the “right time.”  Amazon told the FTC that they wanted people to use Google because an ad on Google generated as much as twice the amount of revenue as either Yahoo or Bing.  So despite their dominance in the field, the FTC finds itself hard pressed to fix something that most companies seem happy to use – Google.