If you said Microsoft or Yahoo, you’d be wrong. I think the real enemy for Google is itself, which is kind of like Microsoft, but for different reasons. Microsoft’s worst enemy is itself because it has to find ways to get people to upgrade from the existing versions of Microsoft software they already use. Or to move their users to a subscription model. Google’s worst enemy is itself because they have done an amazingly good job of accomplishing nothing.
“But they have so many products!” you exclaim. Exactly. They have got a ton of products, including some like the recently released Google Spreadsheets that seem to target Microsoft applications (though Microsoft’s Don Dodge makes a good case that they target open source software instead), yet none of them make money. Honestly, Google must have the largest number of non-revenue earning products of any company in history. I say they have accomplished nothing because their core product (AdSense, not search) really hasn’t changed all that much since it was launched. Instead of improving it, and finding ways to deal with click fraud and the other problems, Google has blinded itself with these side projects that seem bent on competing with Microsoft. And don’t be fooled by their ad company purchases – none of them have come to bear any fruit yet.
When I first learned about it, I thought that Google’s policy of encouraging employees to spend 10-20% of their time working on non-core projects was a good one, but now I am not so sure. It has resulted in lots of interesting technology to be sure, but not much else. I really don’t see how Google would get any ROI out of something like Google Spreadsheets. I have no idea what Google’s revenue breakdown is, but I highly doubt there’s a gem, other than AdSense of course, to be found.
That’s why I think Google’s worst enemy is itself. They have grown so big, so fast, that they forgot to take care of the goose that laid the golden egg. They haven’t cut it open yet, but if they continue to focus on these other mostly unimportant side projects, they might as well have.