To say business is “very, very good” at Google Inc. might even be an understatement, but that’s how Chief Executive Eric Schmidt kicked off a post-earnings conference call with analysts Thursday.
Google reported a profit that nearly doubled on revenue that soared 70 percent to $2.69 billion. Search got better, Schmidt said. Ads got better. The number of Google users grew. And the company’s innovation engine, as he called it, launched products, many products, a “blizzard” of products “confusing to almost everyone,” including some that may one day challenge Microsoft Corp.’s office-software dominance.
Investors rejoiced, sending the stock above $450 in after-hours trading. By Friday afternoon, Google’s stock had gained $31.76, or 7.5 percent, to $457.82 on the Nasdaq.
Imagine you’re Google right now: darling of Wall Street, $10 billion dollars in the bank, the brand-new owner of one of the hottest video-sharing sites on the map. You think big, and say things like, “We want to be the easiest company in the world for advertisers to do business with,” as co-founder Larry Page did during the conference call.
What would other high-tech entrepreneurs do now if they were running Google?
“Buy an airplane,” laughed David Sifry, founder and chief executive officer of Technorati Inc., a start-up search engine for the blogosphere.
But wait, David, Google already has an airplane.
Sifry wasn’t actually being serious. While some may accuse today’s start-up entrepreneurs of living large in Bubble 2.0 conditions, given the chance to stand in Google’s shoes, most kept a conservative focus on improving the company’s core businesses.
“There’s so much work that needs to be done around search,” Sifry said, for real this time. If he were Google, he’d spend the next five years working on “a Google of intention,” driven by users’ real-time needs. For example, he said, imagine he’s standing on a street corner in San Francisco, and decides he wants a pizza. He could float that idea out to the Google of intention, maybe via his blog. Within moments, nearby pizza vendors would respond with bids for Sifry’s business.
Nick Denton, publisher of the blog network company Gawker Media, wrote in an e-mail, “I would get search working, because the results are cluttered with commercial rubbish that ought really to be in the advertising zone. Try doing a search in a category such as travel, for instance, for Barcelona hotels. It’s useless.”
Denton wrote that Google search results would improve if they included links to archived newspaper, magazine and blog articles. “Buy the digital archive rights to every publication in the country. Buy Lexis-Nexis if necessary,” he wrote.
Greg Linden, who created the personalized news Web site Findory.com, wrote in an e-mail that e-commerce — helping people find things they want to buy — should be a key push.
“Google should be the first stop for anyone wanting to buy anything online,” he wrote, calling the search company’s early attempt at e-commerce, Froogle, a lost opportunity.
Henry Copeland, founder of the BlogAds network, wrote in an e-mail, “Google was built on services that worked well and made people happy.”
What would make Copeland happy? If he were Google, he’d turn the company’s paradigm-busting powers on some of the newer applications they’ve launched in the last few years, such as free e-mail. “One service that would give Google at least a decade of customer loyalty: use the collective intelligence of its users to eradicate spam,” Copeland wrote.
There were, of course, a few more outlandish ideas — buying online auctioneer eBay Inc., for example — as well as a few geeky ones involving free database design software.
But all in all, the consensus seems to be that Google needs stay focused — deepen the moat around the core search business, as one analyst said.
Given Thursday’s comments, that seems to be pretty much what Google is thinking.
“We have a huge ways to go just on the basic things that we do to making it really relevant 100 percent of the time and giving you all the right advertisers that are available in that space,” Page said during the conference call. “There’s very obvious growth there still.”