In the new year, Google TV will struggle but gain traction while Android thrives and Chrome OS proves surprisingly popular.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

December 10, 2010

7 Min Read

Top 10 Google Stories Of 2010

Top 10 Google Stories Of 2010

(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: Top 10 Google Stories Of 2010

Google in 2011 will see some spectacular failures and some startling successes. That's the way it has been in recent years and there's no reason to expect that pattern to change. For every Android, Chrome, or Gmail success story, there's a Lively, Wave, or Dodgeball misfire. Google makes no secret of its willingness to make high-risk bets. Here's 10 predictions for what to expect from Google in the coming year.

1. Social Integration Of Google Services

The coming year will be critical for Google's social computing efforts. Facebook continues to grow and has become a habit that many users appear increasingly unlikely to want to break. If Google cannot demonstrate a compelling social offering in 2011, it runs the risk of looking like Yahoo does in search: a company that fell behind and never got back into the race.

Google is believed to be developing a social toolbar or browser extension that will tie its various services together. Expect an announcement in May, at the company's developer conference, Google IO. Google is going to want its forthcoming social capabilities to be available to developers so they can add value.

2. TV Signal Strategy Revealed

That's probably when we'll hear a lot more about Chrome OS too, with Chrome OS netbooks from Acer and Samsung promised for mid-2011. Around this time, Google may also be ready to announce something about its plans for TV signal white spaces, such as a partnership with Logitech to make a white spaces router.

3. Google TV Goes Hollywood

The Android SDK for Google TV should show up before March. The best-case scenario is that Google TV will have spurred enough developer interest to provide some excitement at Google IO. But developer interest depends on consumers buying Google TV hardware. And consumers are unlikely to want Google TV hardware if content providers continue to prevent their content from appearing on Google TV. Expect Google to open its wallet to help encourage Hollywood's stars to come to its party.

Top 10 Google Stories Of 2010

Top 10 Google Stories Of 2010

(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: Top 10 Google Stories Of 2010

4. Embrace Of DRM

Google's recent acquisition of streaming video and DRM company Widevine suggests that the company is looking to make friends in Hollywood by offering more protection for video content. By the end of 2011, Google TV's prospects should look a bit brighter. And chances are that Google, having invested in DRM, implemented Adobe DRM for e-books, and crowed about the success of YouTube's Content ID system, will use the word "open" in its blog posts less than it did in 2010.

5. Music Service Kicks Into Gear

Content owners' fears are also what's holding up Google's cloud-based music service. Having seen the power that Apple has through iTunes, music providers are understandably wary of surrendering too much to Google. At the same time, the music industry would have more negotiating leverage were Google competing with Apple and Amazon in the online music distribution business. So expect a few signed deals and an announcement in March or April.

6. Chrome Continues Upward Trajectory

Google Chrome will reach a global market share of 16% by the end of 2011. The Chrome Web Store will expand to include iGoogle widgets. And iGoogle will figure prominently in Google's social plans.

7. The Mainstream Cloud, Improved Developer Access

Rajen Sheth, senior product manager in Google's enterprise group, believes that in 2011 some of Google's big bets on the future -- cloud computing, mobile, and workplace productivity -- will pay off. He says that cloud computing has gone mainstream and expects that the value proposition of Chrome OS -- the Web without the security or maintenance problems of PCs -- will create more cloud converts.

Sheth suggests that Google will continue to look for ways to make its various platforms -- the Web and Android -- more accessible to developers, through tools like App Inventor and Apps Script. He also says that Google will continue to look for ways to make knowledge workers more productive, through collaboration, automated filtering, and other information management tools.

"We are at a bit of an inflection point right now, after years of seeding cloud computing," he said in a phone interview. "Now that cloud computing and the Google model has taken hold, I think we can really change the way people work."

Top 10 Google Stories Of 2010

Top 10 Google Stories Of 2010

(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: Top 10 Google Stories Of 2010

8. Ongoing Legal And Regulatory Hurdles

In 2011, Google will make some token concessions to end the European Commission's antitrust inquiry. In the U.S., there will be more federal inaction related to privacy and online advertising. The government will allow Google's acquisition of ITA Software to go forward.

Google will win another round in its legal battle against Viacom when the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Second Circuit upholds a lower court's ruling that YouTube is not guilty of copyright infringement.

Meanwhile, Oracle's lawsuit against Google over Android and Java will continue to enrich a number of Silicon Valley attorneys.

Next year, sometime between April and July, Google will announce that it will not seek a permit from the Chinese government to provide map services in China. To do otherwise following revelations in the Wikileaks cables that the Chinese government oversaw the December 2009 cyber attack on the company would be a humiliating reversal of Google's stand against censorship.

Google will continue to provide access to Google Maps through its Hong Kong Web site. Google will again ask the U.S. government to treat censorship as a trade barrier and the U.S. government, having become a less credible defender of free speech through its attempt to silence Wikileaks, will continue to fail to push for trade sanctions against countries that engage in censorship-based protectionism.

9. Google Maps Goes App

In June, Apple will launch the iPhone 5 with its own map application pre-installed instead of Google's. Google will submit Google Maps as a standalone app and it will get approved.

10. Fewer Acquisitions

Google won't buy as many companies as it did in 2010 (26 as of early December) but it will acquire a mobile payment startup that's doing something interesting with near field communication (NFC) technology. (Three days after a draft of this story was filed, Google acquired Canadian mobile payments startup Zetawire.)

Here's a two more "bonus" predictions for the coming year. Google will close Knol in 2011. The service doesn't get enough traffic to be measured by comScore. Regular updates to Knol, common in 2009, haven't been reported since last December. And for the first time in years, Google will manage to avoid a major privacy snafu.

That's the way the crystal ball looks at the end of 2010. Your reality may vary.

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About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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