Most computer industry companies would feel satisfied with ruling the highly lucrative and technically complex search engine advertising market -- but not Google.
As the search giant celebrates its 10th anniversary of incorporation this month, riding a years-long bonanza from its search business, it is also a scrappy underdog with lofty aspirations in the world of software for workplaces.
At 10-year mark, Google's glossy facade shows cracks
As such, Google, the unmatched consumer search engine champion, must compete against seasoned and formidable IT providers like Cisco, Microsoft and IBM. This is no small undertaking, requiring a long-term commitment and heavy investments, while facing real risks.
The jury is still out on whether it's wise for Google to invest significant resources in providing software for enterprise search, office productivity, mapping, collaboration and communication.
It's estimated that about 98 percent of the company's revenue comes from consumer search advertising, making the company's Enterprise unit a small side business currently, at least from a dollar perspective.
Industry observers recommend that IT and business managers keep this in mind as a risk factor when considering buying enterprise products from Google.
Although Google maintains it is committed long term to its enterprise products, it isn't unheard of for large companies to change course and pull out of non-core businesses with little advanced notice.
The warning should be heeded particularly by CIOs in large companies contemplating a major investment in products such as the Google Apps Premier hosted communication and collaboration suite.
"I would absolutely ask that question," said Forrester analyst Rob Koplowitz. "As long as 98 percent of Google's revenue comes from other sources, this question of whether they're in [enterprise software] for the long term will always come up. This isn't their core business."
Burton Group analyst Guy Creese concurs. "In its heart of hearts, Google wants to succeed as a provider of software to large enterprises, but they haven't yet signaled that it's a do-or-die kind of thing," Creese said.
The highest-profile product in Google's Enterprise unit is Apps, whose free versions have proven very popular with individuals, small and medium-size businesses and educational institutions.
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