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What Does Google Want To Be When (and If) It Grows Up?

Word comes of yet another Massive New Business that Google (GOOG) has decided to enter, having filed with federal regulators to become able to buy and sell electricity on the wholesale market. First the Nexus One and then Neo-Enron in a week, which raises the question of whether Google is getting involved in new areas more rapidly than it can possibly obtain any competence in them.

I know, expression doubt about the omniscience and omnipotence of Google is nigh on to apostasy according to True Believers, but let's look at the evidence. It may be making some headway with Google Apps, but is still a niche player. Froogle had to get renamed (I liked the pun, for whatever that counts) and doesn't seem like it's going great blazes. Google's answer to Second Life? Gone with the digital wind. In fact, when you talk about the type of success that ultimately counts to a corporation -- fiscal -- the company is anything but wildly successful outside of advertising, which is still offers 96 to 97 percent of its revenue.

So this week brought the Nexus One (people are already complaining that the company doesn't have the sales resources to deal with orders) and Google Energy, which it claims is all about sourcing electricity and not brokering it nor connecting this to Google PowerMeter. As John Paczkowski of All Things Digital points out, the claim of no commercial interest is about as believable as other Great Google Lies, such as not planning to market a cell phone, not planning to compete with Microsoft (MSFT) Office, and not planning to go public.

But for the sake of the company's shareholders, I hope that the claim turns out to be true. This is a company trying to get into so many different product lines, services, and industries that it makes attempts at conglomeration in the 1950s and 60s look like laser-focused strategies. From a pure business point of view, it has only managed to do one thing well, sell ads against search results (and even to get into that business it had to acquire another company). It would be far better off picking one or two of these areas, marshaling all of its resources and, more importantly, all of its attention, and really do them well. But that won't happen, because, as happens so often in high tech, you're looking at people who are considered by others and by themselves to be Masters of the Universe. That is, until things blow up and they become Goats of the Universe. Google throws off enough cash to make a lot of people happy, but that's not the same as doing well compared to the potential offered by the resources. On that score, Google has a lot of growing up to do.

Image via stock.xchng user 09, site standard license.

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