Harvard Business School Working Knowledg e Archive

The Search

http://gsbwww.uchicago.edu/news/capideas/feb05/paypals.html
9/6/2005

As author John Battelle makes clear right from the start of The Search, Web-based search providers such as Google, Yahoo, and MSN are out for much more than retrieving answers for you. They ultimately want to be your access point for anything connected to the Web. Lost your GPS-enabled keys? Do a Google search to find them. Want to look up a long-lost friend? Do a Google search, then place the call through Google, the phone company. Need to write a proposal? Use the Google word processor to get thoughts onto paper.

Writes Battelle: “Google's mission of organizing the world's information and making it accessible sets the company up to deliver nothing short of every possible service that might live on top of a computing platform—from mundane applications like word processing and spreadsheets (Microsoft's current bread and butter) to more futuristic services like video on demand, personal media storage, or distance learning.”

In this lively read, Battelle, a prominent tech journalist, traces the history of search, examines the different business strategies of the main providers, explores the impact of search on society, and looks to the future of where all this may be going.

At the center of the story is Google, the leader in the young industry. Battelle finds a company headed by two brilliant founders who are reluctant to cede much control to CEO Eric Schmidt, devoted to flaunting business conventions, arrogant to a fault, and who profess disdain for strategy—yet have grown Google into arguably the most powerful and influential technology company there is.

Battelle's thinking out loud about the future of search is to our mind the most compelling part of the book. He looks at how search vendors are trying to create the “perfect search”—technology that knows your preferences and desires and is smart enough to return results that are always spot on with what you need. Then there is the author's belief that as everything we own becomes digitized, down to the RFID tags in our clothes, Google among all the search vendors is best poised to succeed Microsoft and become the operating system of the next great computing platform: the Internet.

If Google succeeds at that, then perhaps its near-$300-a-share stock price will look cheap.

- Sean Silverthorne