Last Updated Nov 18, 2008 10:29 PM EST
As Gartner sees it, Google poses a threat to telecom providers -- not because it actually wants to move in on their business, but simply because it wants to be all things to all people. Gartner analyst Alex Winogradoff says Google has such a massive arsenal of services that it will beat the phone companies to the punch when it comes to expanding into new markets related to entertainment, cloud computing and software as a service (SAAS).
"Carriers should selectively partner with Google rather than trying to compete," writes Winogradoff.
The analyst looks at some of the search giant's newer products such as Google Docs and the Android mobile operating system it unveiled a year ago, and says that they are already making Google a market disruptor in the communications market:
Google is looking to engage enterprises by getting them hooked on using Google's applications and cloud computing infrastructure. Making it easy for users to download Google applications and giving them free space on Google's cloud infrastructure will give Google great marketing insight to help it develop a presence within the small-and-midsize business (SMB) market initially, with eventual migration to larger enterprises where the enterprises will come to Google for all their back-office SaaS needs. The impact on carriers looking to generate revenue from the SaaS business model within the SMB market will require carriers to clearly differentiate their applications from Google, or partner with it.This report is clearly not the first to reach a "Google wants to rule the world" conclusion, but its discussion of the impact on telecommunications is fairly new. And in some ways, it does not seem too far off the mark. Scratch the surface of some recent Google customer wins, and you can see the implications go beyond the product itself.
Consider Serena Software, an 800 person company that recently replaced Microsoft Exchange with Gmail. It's not just a win for Google's email business, but for its fast-growing cloud computing business.
You have to wonder, though, whether Gartner reached its latest conclusions about Google in a somewhat scientific manner, or rather is just trying to cover its bases with studies on the different industries that may be hurt by this behemoth. Certainly, software as a service and cloud computing, which also involves a service-based model, are two very hot buzzwords in high-tech today, and are areas where just about everyone, not just Google, would like to have a presence. But these areas are so vast that it's still unclear exactly where Google could shine. Not to mention that for all the money and labor it has poured into areas outside of search in recent years, Google is still best known for search. Aside from Gmail, its forays into new businesses have often flopped.
Before we start worrying about all the ways Google is winning business in areas that are tangential to telecommunications, it would be wise to remember that Google is getting pretty strong in some core telecom services -- including plain old voice service.
Take the company's quiet launch of voice and video services in Gmail chat. As the BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones notes, Skype had better look out, because Google's calling:
Once you download the plug-in from Google, the idea is that you can then call -- and even see -- the people you connect with the Gmail chat service.... Google already has many millions using its Gmail and they may now constitute a big audience for a voice service.