The tech boom is the most influential economic development since the industrial revolution. And out of all the tech giants of our day, one reigns supreme in pushing trends and quality of service- Google. As the one company setting the example, the Google Standard has been adopted by the savvy and ignored by the foolish. That decision has determined the fates of companies left and right.
What defines the Google Standard? To answer that question, one must first recognize what makes Google great.
How do you measure Google's success? Market Capitalization has doubled since 2006 from $127 Billion to $295 Billion. Market Shares have skyrocketed across the board: Chrome, Android, Gmail, Google Docs- almost every product has become a force in it's sector (with Google+ being the exception which proves the rule1We can also forgive short-lived experiments such as the Google Wave). Google has paved the way in the tech market, even spilling over to physical products with Google Glass, Google Drive, Google Fiber, and now manufacturing of the first US made smartphone. With each product Google is lauded with well deserved critical acclaim and public praise.
Public praise is represented through a combination of market share, consumer satisfaction, media coverage, press relations, and product quality; basically the ultimate indicator of how well situated a company currently is. If that company were to release a product today, how well would it due? Would the company's status help or hurt a product's release? Based on the image of the company, is it guaranteed to sell well based on the public praise?
Over the last five months, two tech giants have announced the release of two new gaming/entertainment consoles. The Sony Playstation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One both promise to have major appeal within their respective market. Both warrant hundreds of millions of dollars worth of development and both will sell at a loss for the attempt to win over consumers. The hardware is advanced, state of the art, pinnacles of modern tech. You know what upstaged them both? A $35 dongle from Google.
The chromecast has beaten both the Xbox One and PS4 to the living room. At the cheapest price point for streaming content to the TV, Google might have found the perfect product for home entertainment.
Consumers don't only buy Google products because of what they are, but for what they will become. It accepted as fact that the Google experience will improve over time both with timely updates from Google and also third party developers. This means people buy Google products even if they are currently similar to competitive products, knowing that they'll improve at a faster pace.
Google doesn't only put out quality products and services, but also exemplifies how a business should be run. Investing in new initiatives, treating employees as valuable assets- these business practices have quickly spread though other companies wishing to cash in on Google's success.
The breakdown of Google's success-
Starting from the Search Engine, Google set itself apart by delivery quality results. Not satisfied with "good enough", Google endeavored to deliver what the people wanted2Google- Inside Search. Back before 1998 there was little reason to invest in Search Engines. AltaVista, Ask Jeeves, Yahoo, and MSN Search led the field3Search Engine History Infographic but nobody realized how valuable of a commodity they could have by delivering better results. Now people realize the benefit of controlling the number one tool for online activities, but back then it took a couple of computer geeks from Stanford geeks to show what could be done. From that point on Google showed a dedicated stance of delivering the best possible product.
In the early days, Google enjoyed praise but did little to capitalize aside from collecting heaps of Ad Revenue. For 6 years Google stayed poised for the next step but did little to realize their potential. Then Gmail dropped and everything changed. Since then Google has released a continuous onslaught of products capitalizing on it's existing code.
Gmail to Google Docs. Google Maps to Google streets and Google Drive. Chrome to Android, Chrome OS, and Google Glass and Voice. And it all started with a simple search engine. Google is the king of expanding products and forward roadmaps.
Vigorous Beta Testing
For five years Gmail operated under the beta moniker. Slightly odd despite supporting a respective 26 million users by 20084NY Times- AOL vs Gmail, but it shows Google's resolve to delivering a quality product. In that time Google perfected it's practices and solidified it's position going forward5Google takes long time to take Gmail out of beta. Keeping it's new primary products labeled with the beta phase is not the only Google tactic which bucked conventional wisdom.
Search engines and email have historically been available free, so that was nothing new. But when Google Maps was released for the iPhone there was no other maps/navigation software available for less than $506ismashphone.com- Google Maps Navigation for iPhone. Google Maps offered superior service for free, and became the de facto mobile GPS software before long. Google Docs, GB's worth of storage on Gmail at a time when a 1GB USB stick still cost $50; Google has consistently released quality products for free.
If you were to walk into the offices of any company back in 2007, and suggest strapping cameras to a bunch of vehicles to drive around every street in America, you would have been laughed out of the building. But that kind of huge undertaking is right up Google's alley7Google- Behind the scenes of Street View. What started out as a method to bolster Google Maps and Navigation, has become the basis behind projects such as Google Street View and Google Drive. Now Google Street cars are on almost every continent, collecting visual and geographical information around the globe.
Famous for starting the 20% rule8NY Times- The Google Way , Google has always been ahead of the curve of valuing employee ingenuity. Replacing busy work with "creative time" was a leap of faith, one that has paid off for the most successful tech company of our era. Time will tell if Google can maintain it's wild success, but one lesson well showcased is that treating people right is a surefire way to win hearts and minds. Behind the "Don't be evil" mantra, Google has shown that the best way to win, is to win together. It's been slow to catch on, but the results of this practice are abundantly clear.
With it's exemplary record, Google has shaped today's current market. By releasing the best possible products, often at the best possible price Google has broken a lot of long-standing rules for big business. With no signs of slowing down, Google's success is not only beneficial to techies, but to everybody.
Looking ahead to the future, it's comforting to know that the Google Standard is a big part of the shape of things to come.