"Google is the realization of everything that we thought the Internet was going to be about but really wasn't until Google," says David B. Yoffie, a professor at Harvard Business School.
As Google increasingly becomes the starting point for finding information and buying products and services, companies that even a year ago did not see themselves as competing with Google are beginning to view the company with some angst -- mixed with admiration.
Google's recent moves have stirred concern in industries from book publishing to telecommunications. Businesses already feeling the Google effect include advertising, software and the news media. Apart from retailing, Google's disruptive presence may soon be felt in real estate and auto sales.
Observing the disruptive effect of Google on traditional business -- and even on Info Age companies -- could help us understand how molecular manufacturing will shake things up in a few more years, albeit on a much larger scale.
Google, the reigning giant of Web search, could extend its economic reach in the next few years as more people get high-speed Internet service and cellphones become full-fledged search tools, according to analysts. And ever-smarter software, they say, will cull and organize larger and larger digital storehouses of news, images, real estate listings and traffic reports, delivering results that are more like the advice of a trusted human expert.
Such advances, predicts Esther Dyson, a technology consultant, will bring "a huge reduction in inefficiency everywhere." That, in turn, would be an unsettling force for all sorts of industries and workers. But it would also reward consumers with lower prices and open up opportunities for new companies.
Foreshadowing the impact of advanced nanotechnology, search engines -- led by Google -- are an instrument of creative destruction, upsetting and redefining whole industries. Increasingly intense competition may even accelerate this process.
Microsoft. . .is pushing hard to catch Google in Internet search. "This is hyper-competition, make no mistake," said Bill Gates, Microsoft's chief executive. "The magic moment will come when our search is demonstrably better than Google's," he said, suggesting that this could happen in a year or so.
Still, apart from its front-runner status, Google is also remarkable for its pace of innovation and for how broadly it seems to interpret its mission to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."
The company's current lineup of offerings includes: software for searching personal computer files; an e-mail service; maps; satellite images; instant messaging; blogging tools; a service for posting and sharing digital photos; and specialized searches for news, video, shopping and local information. Google's most controversial venture, Google Print, is a project to copy and catalog millions of books; it faces lawsuits by some publishers and authors who say it violates copyright law.
Google, which tends to keep its plans secret, certainly has the wealth to fund ambitious ventures. Its revenues are growing by nearly 100 percent a year, and its profits are rising even faster. Its executives speak of the company's outlook only in broad strokes, but they suggest all but unlimited horizons.
Hmm...could those "unlimited horizons" include an investment in the development of molecular manufacturing? After all, MM often is described as 'programmable matter' or as 'information in 3D'. How better to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful," than to build and distribute nanofactories?