After establishing its dominance on the desktop computer, and armed with a US$7-billion war chest, Google Inc. is wasting little time going after its next target: the fast-growing wireless market. In the past two weeks alone, Google has made a flurry of announcements involving deals with hardware makers Motorola Inc. and Research in Motion Ltd.; the acquisition of Waterloo, Ont.-based start-up Reqwireless Inc.; and the launch of personalized home pages for wireless devices in the United States.
“Google thinks it’s the most important new market that they can consider long term,” said Gerry Purdy, president with consulting firm MobileTrax in Cupertino, Calif. “When I talk to their executives, they don’t take a 100-year view but they have the luxury of saying that 20, 25 years from now, most people in the world will be interacting with wireless handhelds. You get two, three, four billion handset users, and that represents an awful big market.”
Another element of the strategy is Google’s interest in creating wireless networks in large cities. Google wants to build a Wi-Fi network in Mountain View, Calif. (home of its corporate headquarters) that would give people free or inexpensive Internet access. The company is also bidding to build a wireless network in San Francisco.
Mr. Purdy said the wireless market has the potential to be extremely lucrative for Google, which can use its hefty war chest to experiment with the best opportunities and business models.
Deep Nishar, director of product management with Google, said the foundation of the company’s approach is making wireless data more accessible and useful so devices become more than just voice-centric.
“At the highest possible level, where we want to go with mobile offerings from Google is to make usage of information services as easy and painless as possible,” he said in an interview.
Google’s focus on the wireless market is not a surprise because the launch of higher-speed networks makes it easier for users to access a wider variety of Web-based services such as e-mail, news and video. Yahoo! Inc. has also jumped on the bandwagon with the recent launch of Yahoo! Go, which will make its content and services available on a variety of wireless devices.
All this activity is positive news for wireless carriers looking for new ways to generate revenue. RIM, for example, has become a carrier-favourite in recent years because Blackberry users typically spend more than $90 a month for voice and e-mail service, compared with $50 for regular wireless customers.