The company has survived a copyright and patent infringement claim from Oracle that threatened to undo Android. Its hardware partners have fared less well, with Samsung on the defensive as it tries to reverse the billion-dollar judgment Apple won over the summer and with other Android hardware makers paying patent protection money to Microsoft and Apple.
Google's backward motion will be the result of a push by regulators and corporate litigants around the world to tame the company's ability to disrupt established markets and to extract tolls for daring to subsidize what was once expensive with ad revenue. Only a handful of companies are competing effectively against Google, and those that are doing well, like Baidu in China, tend to benefit from a regulatory advantage or, like Microsoft and its Office suite, from force of habit.
[ Freedom of online expression may be at risk. Read Google, Mozilla Warn Of Threats To Internet Freedom. ]
Google's greatest challenge in 2013 will come not from competitors but from the difficulties of monetizing mobile ads. Adblock Plus is now available for Android devices. Your move, Google.
My 2012 Predictions Scorecard
But before we get to Google's future, let's look at its past, specifically as it relates to my 2012 predictions.
1. Google Stars In "Regulatory Theater"
True. And the show continues. As this story was being written, the Wall Street Journal was reporting that U.S. and European Union antitrust officials plan to meet next week to discuss what to do about Google. They will struggle to come up with an effective remedy because search is subjective and Google's argument that it can bias its rankings as it sees fit is largely unassailable if you subscribe to free market capitalism.
2. Google Loses 5% Market Share To Bing
False. Microsoft's Bing search engine has gained market share in the U.S. but only about 1% as of October 2012. It presently receives about 16% of U.S. searches. Google meanwhile accounted for 66.9% of U.S. searches in October, according to ComScore, a record for the company. "Competition is only a click away," as Google puts it, turns out to be another way of saying "You can't get there from here."
3. GM Goes Google
False. Following the departure of CIO Terry Kline earlier this year, GM opted not to follow-through with the plan to switch to Google Apps, according to a person familiar with the matter. I asked GM's current CIO, Randy Mott, whether he'd be willing to be interviewed about the decision not to go Google. I haven't heard back.
4. Android's Share Of Smartphone Sales Reaches 60%
True, and then some. According to Gartner, Android accounted for 72% of smartphone sales in Q3 2012.
5. Google Chrome Ends 2012 With 35% Market Share
True enough. Chrome had 34.77% of the global browser market share in October 2012, according to StatCounter.
6. Google TV's Second Act Stronger Than Its First
Debatable. It would be hard to have a weaker second act, given Google TV's unimpressive debut, but second-generation Google TV devices haven't exactly been making waves. My prediction that Google would launch an ARM-based Google TV set-top box remains unfulfilled, but Sony has done so, the Sony NSZ-GS7.
7. Google Will Take A Shot At Siri, As Apple Promotes Its Replacement For Google Maps
True, even if Apple Maps has underwhelmed.
8. Google Will Release Chrome For Android
9. Google+ Survives
True. Google+ may not be an immediate threat to Facebook, but it's hanging in there.
All told, that's either six or seven right out of nine, depending on whether or not I get credit for prediction #6 about Google TV. Now on to 2013. Keep in mind that past performance does not guarantee future results.