Google has ambitious plans for reforming the mobile Internet world. But not everything Google touches turns to gold. Given the challenges Google faces getting the biggest U.S. carriers to play along and the mixed report card on Google products, the Android isn't a slum-dunk.
For instance, Google's foray into the social media space hasn't been as successful as the company would have liked. We've all heard about Orkut, Google's social network that's big in Brazil. The site, which has had its share of legal problems, doesn't make Nielsen Online's Top 20 list for the U.S. market. Last week, Google announced the OpenSocial set of common APIs for developing social-network applications, but it's not clear how that will translate into more market share, new products or increased revenue for Google.
Then there's Google Finance, which is ranked as the 21st most popular financial news site in the U.S., according to Nielsen Online, below Entrepreneur.com and American City Business Journals Network, and others that are even more well-known.
In the online payment space, Google Checkout isn't exactly denting the fortunes of PayPal. And Google Product Search (previously called "Froogle") is definitely an also-ran at 4 million unique users a month, compared with 14 million users for Yahoo Shopping and 43.5 million for Amazon.com.
Meanwhile, Gmail trails Yahoo Mail, AOL Email, and Windows Live Hotmail; Google Talk is the sixth most popular instant-messaging program; Google News is ranked seventh in Nielsen Online's global news category; and Picasa is ranked fifth for photo-sharing sites.
Google does have plenty of shining stars. For starters, it's got 54 percent share of the U.S. search market, well ahead of Yahoo's 19.5 percent share and Microsoft's 12 percent, according to Nielsen Online. And it's hands-down the leader in search advertising and will have a strong position in display advertising if its proposed acquisition of online ad firm DoubleClick is approved.
YouTube is the top video site, and Google Video is ranked third. Google Maps is second only to MapQuest, and even Google Earth has more users than Windows Live Local.
But Android isn't a product; it's a software platform that Google hopes will lead to more innovation in a mobile market hindered by proprietary devices and services. There may be a Google Phone down the road, though. (Google executives have refused to say whether or not one is in the works.)
If Android is widely adopted it will change the industry. And it could change Google's corporate tag line to "Search, ads, apps and mobile." But we'll have to wait and see.