Google's rivals

Google's rivals
Search under 'Google, competitor.' The list of prospective rivals grows longer every day. How these various clashes play out will have major consequences for small businesses.

Google's free productivity applications (Gmail, Writely, and Google Spreadsheets) will offer ad-supported alternatives to Outlook, Word, and Excel. Can a free Google version of PowerPoint be far behind? Compelling scenario: Small businesses get free software. Google gets a fresh source of revenues. Microsoft's Live programs are reduced to also-rans in the brave new world of software as a service.

This is a Coke-Pepsi rivalry. Google currently dominates the $9.5 billion search-term ad market, with a 60% share to Yahoo's 30%. But the two giants are duking it out in the ad-supported free software market, with competing e-mail, instant-messaging, blogging, and mapping services. Good news for small business: The rivalry should keep service quality up and prices down.

Craigslist and EBAY
Many small Internet vendors would welcome a viable alternative to eBay. Hence the buzz over Google's new online payment program called Checkout. Meanwhile, Google's new Base service is user friendly and appears well suited for posting classified ads. Look out, Craigslist!

Everyone else
Google's experiments in Internet telephony threaten Vonage, Verizon, and Skype. Its acquisition of dMark Broadcasting, an online broker of advertising airtime, threatens traditional ad agencies. Last year Google's hometown of Mountain View, Calif., accepted the company's offer to wire the entire town for Wi-Fi, an obvious boon for local businesses. Expect communities nationwide to follow suit. Main Street will be the clear winner as these various skirmishes result in better and cheaper services.


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