Google Must Embrace Travel, Gaming: 10 Reasons Why

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Google Must Embrace Travel, Gaming: 10 Reasons Why

by Clint Boulton

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Search Is Slowing

Google isn't losing search share, but it's been mired at around 65 to 66 percent for ages. That's a fantastic fortress, and it may be unassailable. But Google can't take that chance, especially with growing competition from Microsoft Bing and the popularity of Facebook. So Google needs to add features that stand the best chance of keeping people not only searching using Google, but also executing transactions. ??í

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People Buy a Lot of Travel Tickets Online

Google CEO Eric Schmidt summed up Google's reason for bidding for ITA Software on a conference call when he said about 50 percent of airline tickets are purchased online.??í

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Online Travel Is Huge

Forrester Research analyst Henry Harteveldt offers specific numbers on the travel business Google wants to tap into. He says online leisure and unmanaged business travel spending will increase from $80 billion in 2010 to nearly $111 billion through 2014. Airfare accounts for the lion's share, or $44.8 billion, of online spending in 2010, expected to climb to $59.1 billion by 2014. That's a lot of action for Google to profit from by accompanying searches with ads.??í

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Googles Travel Search Offering Is Weak

Ever search for a flight on Google? This is what you get: lots of results taking you to travel Websites such as Expedia. That's a major barrier to action. With ITA's QPX software in its search engine, Google will be able to provide airlines, schedules and fares as well as accessing the Websites that sell the tickets.??í

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Bing Is Big in Travel

Take a look at Bing. The Travel landing page lets users search for flights immediately. Running the same search we did on Google for flights from JFK to San Francisco, we see suggested airfares. Google is sure to add this information if federal regulators clear its acquisition of ITA. ??í

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Google for Gaming

One week after Google bid for ITA, Hitwise analyst Heather Hopkins suggested Google could get into Web-based games, for which the clickstream runs deep. Since gaming is where the Web traffic is, Google would logically follow.??í

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Google and Zynga Team Up

Just days later, TechCrunch reported that Google had invested in Zynga and would be using the Website as the base camp for Google Games when it launches later this year. Why Zynga? Titles such as "FarmVille" and "Mafia Wars" have proven extremely popular among Facebook's 500 million users. ??í

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Google Lacks Social Skills

Say all the good (or bad) things you want about Orkut or Google Buzz, but Google doesn't really have an effective social construct with which to lure users. People leave brief posts in Buzz and move on, just as they do with Twitter. ??í

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Gaming and Social Networking Are Sticky

Thanks to Zynga and other social gaming providers, people have evolved from simply sharing information and socializing on Facebook to playing games with friends online for hours at a time. A gaming platform, powered by Zynga, could provide Google with the stickiness that Facebook enjoys. Google craves the millions of users who spend hours a day playing games on Facebook, since it can deliver them ads.??í

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Google Me

Google is reportedly working on a social platform called Google Me, which could be the real Facebook challenger if any of the signs are accurate. Google Games could be to Google Me what Zynga is to Facebook. Suddenly, the next battlefront for the Web between Google and Facebook comes into focus.

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