Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) could earn as much as $14 billion from mobile-ad sales in 2015, or nearly half the $29 billion it banked in online ads combined in 2010, according to a financial research firm.
Canaccord Genuity analyst Heath Terry said Google's mobile sales, largely driven by search and display ads served on Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone, as well as via smartphones based on the company's Android mobile operating system, will comprise a robust $2.5 billion in 2011.
That sum, which might have seemed incredible before Android launched in 2008, appears modest next to Terry's forecast for $14 billion by 2015.
Google's growth is expected to rev up exponentially, thanks to the perfect proliferation of mobile, social and local applications on handheld devices consumers carry with them wherever they go.
Smartphone sales continue to grow, and researchers such as Gartner and IDC expect Google's market share to top 40 percent this year and beyond.
Moreover, IDC expects the market for mobile applications to accelerate from 10.9 billion application downloads globally in 2010 to 76.9 billion in 2014. Moreover, mobile-application revenues are projected to grow to $35 billion by 2014. More devices and applications sold means more ads Google can serve to consumers using the hardware and software.
Indeed, Gartner said the global mobile-ad market will grow from $3.3 billion in 2011 to $20.6 billion in 2015. Google aims to grab the lion's share of that revenue.
"While regulatory pressures, competition and investment spending are likely to continue to weigh on shares near term, we believe accelerating growth driven by search, mobile, display and local ... will begin to overwhelm those concerns," Terry wrote in a research note issued June 27.
One of the core drivers in this mobile revenue market will be mobile payments, which Google expects to leverage via its Google Wallet service in conjunction with its Google Offers service this summer.
Launching in New York and San Francisco soon, Google Wallet enables consumers to pay for goods by tapping their phone against a point-of-sales terminal. Google Offers is a Groupon-like service that targets Google users with local deals.
On any normal day, Canaccord's forecasting would appear bullish, but now it appears bold and gutsy. The Federal Trade Commission June 24 opened an antitrust investigation into Google's search business.
Early indications are that the agency will have a hard time proving its case and extracting damages from the search engine, but a finding of anticompetitive behavior could result in large fines and possible injunctions. It's unclear how that would affect a company of Google's size and scale online.
Meanwhile, it's full speed ahead for Google on the mobile front. The company has seen its Android platform appear on more than 300 devices, with 400,000 Android gadgets launching every day.