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The company finally appears to be on the path toward shaping up its many facets, giving advertisers more reason to promote on the network – and putting more money in Google's fat pockets.
It helps when a company is challenged by a fierce rival or two, and right now Google's getting a motivating push from Facebook Inc. and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT). I am particularly impressed with Google Plus (Google+), the search giant's new attack on Facebook. It is a rethink of the social web that looks like it could actually gain traction in coming months and years.
There is a huge opportunity in the social web for people who don't quite get Facebook, which is a large percentage of the population over age 25. For my teenage kids, Facebook practically is the Internet. They do all their messaging, e-mailing and photo-sharing there in one great big group hug; what's made available to one friend is made available to all.
But there are hordes of people who would never want to share their lives with all their friends, and compartmentalize their lives between work, neighborhood, old high school buddies and the like. For them, the social media team at Google+ has created the concept of "circles," which allows you to share some photos and links with one group of friends to the exclusion of others. And all of your Google contacts can easily be interwoven into a larger conversation in a way that escapes the confines of instant messaging or e-mail.
There is a lot more to Google+ than that, but it gives you the idea that the guys at the Googleplex are thinking of ways to make their product more "sticky," garnering more share of their customers' day. It's there for the grabbing, and it's cool to see them do it.
Even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has checked it out. The social media king last week was the most followed user on Google+.
Another area that Google is pressing quietly into is mass storage. The company has slowly but steadfastly built out its Google Docs area into an amazingly rich but easy to navigate environment. At first it was just online documents, then spreadsheets, then presentations and forms. Now you can actually upload your entire desktop, every single file of any type, into the Google Docs structure.
Did you know that? It's very cool. And now suddenly — watch out, Microsoft — the singular metaphor of Windows, the "desktop," becomes an online phenomenon that is not wedded to a single personal computer on a single desk. All your files are at hand no matter where you may roam, on whatever handheld device, whether a notebook computer, Apple Inc.'s (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone, or Droid.
I have been experimenting recently with a variety of these online storage platforms, checking out SugarSync, Box.net and Google Docs. And while each of them has their pluses and minuses, it struck me that the more stuff you put on Google, the more that it has the potential to be your total computing environment. Now they need to do a better job of monetizing that through ads, annual app service revenue and storage upgrades.
If the company does that it will definitely have a second act in its corporate life-after-search.
Google rolled this out at the same time it rolled out a revamp of the look of its mail and applications, and it gives me hope that it can be a good stock.
The company will report second-quarter earnings Thursday and analysts polled by Thomson Reuters think the numbers could top expectations due to market share gains in search, display ads and mobile.
I don't recommend individual stocks in my newsletter outside of StrataGem, but I will say that Google is relatively cheap and likely to endure for the next decade on this vector alone. Google shares have been trashed, yet they are starting to turn higher in a way that is potentially sustainable.
Google shares closed at $527.28 yesterday (Monday).
Bottom line: If you have ever thought about buying Google shares but thought they were overpriced or the company was too out of touch, this is probably the time to start a position.
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