With search war stalemate, Google branches out
Jump to: Featured stories
Google continued to lap the competition in 2009, but found itself jousting with a formidable foe: the U.S. government.
Scrutiny from federal regulators played a role in almost every major story that involved Google this year, from its continued domination of the search and search advertising markets, to its battle with authors and publishers over the effects of the Google Book Search settlement, to CEO Eric Schmidt's role overseeing both Google and Apple as a director. At year's end, no major federal action had been taken against the company, and Google showed no signs of slowing down its innovative engineers with plans to move into operating systems and possibly consumer electronics.
Google Wave, a combination of real-time
communication with social-networking and search
capabilities built into a familiar interface.
Google's settlement with groups representing authors and publishers technically took place in 2008, but the battle over its propriety raged throughout 2009. And the year will end without a clear decision regarding how Google will be allowed to display portions of out-of-print yet copyright-protected books that it has scanned. However, a second final settlement drafted in consultation with the Department of Justice was approved in November.
Opponents accused Google of trying to corner the market on digital books, while the company insisted it was doing the world a favor by improving access to books. A final hearing on whether to approve the revised settlement is scheduled for February 2010, meaning this story isn't done just yet.
Google will end the year about where it began when it comes to search market share: around 65 percent of the U.S. market, according to ComScore. Microsoft's launch of Bing, a revamped version of Live Search, was definitely noticed in Mountain View, but Bing seemed to take more share from Yahoo than it did from Google as the year progressed.
Not all was rosy for the Google economic engine: the company was forced to lay off employees for the first time due to the prolonged economic slump in the advertising market. Still, Google appeared to weather the storm far better than its competitors, and once the dust had cleared opened up its checkbook for strategic purchases such as On2 Technologies and AdMob.
It was a banner year for one of Google's most important side projects. Android, its mobile operating system, started to gain traction among the phone makers of the world, and led to a landmark deal between Google and Verizon to develop "a family of devices" based on Android.
However, late in the year, Google was reported to be planning to sell consumers a phone of its own: the $199 Nexus One, given out to Google employees at a holiday party. The company has not yet commented on whether the Nexus One will be its first consumer electronics product, or just another developer phone sold to a limited audience.
Android began setting itself up as a main contender to Apple's iPhone, which is probably why the government raised an eyebrow at Schmidt's role as a director at both Apple and Google. For a while, Schmidt shrugged off the controversy, but eventually stepped down from Apple's board after acknowledging that the overlap between the two companies had become too great.
That decision came after Google decided to shake up the computer market with plans for its own operating system--Chrome OS--based on its Chrome browser. Chrome OS is not expected to arrive on Netbooks until late next year, but the company showed off its novel approach to operating system development late in the year during an event for the media. Chrome OS is designed as a lightweight, fast operating system that runs nothing but Web applications; that might appeal to some, but it's still not clear if the masses are ready for such a product.
And while cloud computing through products like Chrome OS may be the future, the current cloud situation can be stormy from time to time. Google suffered a prolonged outage in May that knocked out traffic to just about all of its services, and sporadic Gmail outages frustrated users on several occasions.
--by Tom Krazit
Unsurprisingly, Google led the search market in the U.S. in 2008. But third-place Microsoft has reclaimed some share over the last five months.
Gmail stopped working early Tuesday morning. The company promises paying customers 99.9 percent uptime for the Webmail service.
CNET readers and Twitter users are reporting problems with many Google services, notably search. Google says it fixed the problem and acknowledged responsibility.
The recession's realities sink in further at Google, with a cut of about 1 percent of its workforce on top of earlier relatively small cuts.
Editor of the Journal says sites that aggregate news are "parasites" and says legal challenges are coming.
Unusually, the search giant designs its own servers. For the first time, Google unveils one publicly, showing a surprise built-in battery.
HTML 5 technologies will allow Web developers to build applications almost as cool as anything found on the desktop, according to Google executives and engineers.
Google unveils an ambitious project to create what it calls the "e-mail of the future," and the reactions of developers at Google I/O will be telling.
Google Book Search has the potential to unlock the musty archives of the world's libraries. But will it overcome antitrust obstacles and other opposition?
At some point before the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Google changed its method for censoring search results. It refuses to discuss the new method.
Government investigators will probe whether or not Google's agreement with publishers over the digital rights to index books violates antitrust laws.
Google says it is building Chrome OS because it wants to improve the experience of using a computer. Of course, getting more people to spend their lives online and searching can't hurt.
The Google CEO, who has been on Apple's board of directors since 2006, is stepping down because of a growing number of conflicts of interest.
Google insists it has the best of intentions following its settlement with book rights holders, but there is a strong undercurrent of distrust in the publishing community.
Concerns about Google's settlement with book authors are valid, the Department of Justice said in a filing with the court overseeing the settlement. But things could change.
In less time than it takes for some government investigations, the search company has gone from start-up to accused menacer of Internet competition. Fair or not, this is Google 2.0.
Two years after Google announced Android, phone manufacturers are launching new devices sporting the mobile operating system and mobile operators are lining up to sell them.
Verizon and Google make partnership official with promises to collaborate on Android-based phones and other devices over the next several years.
Look for increased investment from Google, which after its third-quarter financial earnings has decided that if that's the worst the economy has to offer, it will be fine.
The most dominant online advertising company has long had its sights set on the mobile market, and its $750 million purchase of AdMob would give it a strong position.
Searching real-time services like Twitter at the moment is like standing in front of a firehose on a hot day: you'll get cooled off, but you'll get knocked over. Google wants to change that.
Is the search company about to throw a wrench into two years of Android community building with plans to sell its own phone directly to consumers?