Google's Stellar 2013 Tempered by Some Vexations: 10 Takeaways

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2013-12-27 Print this article Print

Google had a fantastic year by any measure. The company's stock rose 53 percent from its 2012 value, to hit $1,110 per share in late December. Google also generated billions of dollars in profits each quarter and easily outstripped its 2012 performance. Google's core businesses, like search and advertising, helped the company grow in 2013, and the company has been able to stand out from the crowd and look like the average consumer's best friend. A number of its technology initiatives looked promising in 2013, including Google Glass, Chromebooks and the Chromecast dongle. However, it's not easy for a company the size and complexity of Google to have a stellar year in all of its operations. Various aspects of its business proved vexing. In the face of pervasive National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programs, Google is dealing with threats to the security and integrity of the Web data services it provides millions of customers. The Android mobile OS has come under relentless attack from hackers and malware distributors. This slide show examines some of the lessons we learned about Google's extremely diverse operations in the past year.

  • Google's Stellar 2013 Tempered by Some Vexations: 10 Takeaways

    by Don Reisinger
    1 - Google's Stellar 2013 Tempered by Some Vexations: 10 Takeaways
  • Wearable Tech Can Really Catch On

    Although Google Glass is still being tested, the number of Explorers signing up to wear the company's eyewear has been astonishing, the search giant has said. Some were concerned that wearable computer technology—especially something that hangs on your face—wouldn't take off. But it appears so far that Google Glass is helping prove the viability of the wearable market. It remains to be seen if Google Glass will be embraced by the general public.
    2 - Wearable Tech Can Really Catch On
  • Malware Creators Are Relentlessly Targeting Android

    Google now understands what it's like to be Microsoft. The company was able to stand aloof and watch as Windows was slammed by malware. But that was before Google was in the operating system business. Now Google Android is the top target for many malware creators around the world. In fact, some reports claim that 97 percent of all mobile malware targets Android. Look for Google to try to beef up Android security in 2014.
    3 - Malware Creators Are Relentlessly Targeting Android
  • Authors Can't Put the Brakes on Google Books

    Google won an important case in 2013, allowing the company to scan and display at least a portion of copyrighted print books online through its Google Books service. The case was important for Google and authors. The court basically agreed with Google's argument that scanning and displaying only a portion of a copyrighted book constituted fair use. Authors plan to appeal the ruling, but the case once again demonstrates the power that Google and the Internet wield as aggregators and distributors of published content of every description.
    4 - Authors Can't Put the Brakes on Google Books
  • Not Even a Barge Can Escape the Web's Grasp

    Reports surfaced in late 2013 that Google was fitting out a barge in San Francisco Bay for some apparently mysterious purpose. For a while, Google kept quiet on the matter. Finally the company admitted it would use the barge to test technology, such as Google Glass, but didn't divulge details. While it may appear that this incident highlights how just about any corporate secret can come to light on the Web, it's important to remember the publicity benefits Google reaped once the barge's existence became public. We'll never know whether the barge came to light because of a sharp-eyed news reporter or because Google wanted to leak this little secret.
    5 - Not Even a Barge Can Escape the Web's Grasp
  • It's Time to Rein in NSA Surveillance

    Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents that revealed that the U.S. government was tapping into online company databases, archiving the phone records of millions of U.S. citizens and monitoring the communications of foreign leaders and governments. Google and other tech giants called on the government to reform the surveillance programs. A White House task force issued a report recommending an overhaul of the surveillance programs that will likely result in some changes in 2014.
    6 - It's Time to Rein in NSA Surveillance
  • The Living Room Is an Opportunity

    Google's Chromecast, a small, cheap dongle that connects to a television to deliver streaming content, is the most popular electronics item on That has proven consumers really want something cheap and effective to connect their televisions to entertainment content streamed from the Web to their living rooms. Look for Google to capitalize on the initial success of Chromecast in 2014.
    7 - The Living Room Is an Opportunity
  • Google Must Keep an Eye on Marissa Mayer

    When Marissa Mayer was at Google, she was one of the most talented and effective employees there. Now that Mayer is Yahoo's CEO, she's become a competitive challenge to her former employer. During 2013, Mayer recruited some former colleagues from Google, bought out major operations like Tumblr and is buying other startups that could collectively put pressure on Google's most important businesses such as advertising.
    8 - Google Must Keep an Eye on Marissa Mayer
  • Small but Frequent Updates Keep Google Apps Fresh

    If one were to peruse Google's blog, they'd find dozens of posts announcing small updates to everything from Google+ to Gmail. They've all added up to make Google's many services better. Gmail, for example, now has a better design, it handles pictures more effectively, and its attachment-handling is top-notch. Google doesn't need big, splashy updates; it needs to keep doing what it's doing with small improvements.
    9 - Small but Frequent Updates Keep Google Apps Fresh
  • Chromebooks Keep Growing

    Google's Chromebook platform was initially dismissed as an unwanted addition to the already crowded notebook market. However, Chromebook sales appear to be growing in the face of adversity due to Google's persistent promotion of the platform. In July, in fact, research firm NPD revealed that Chromebook sales were up and own approximately one-quarter of the U.S. market for cheap notebooks. It was the one bright spot in an otherwise gloomy outlook on notebook sales. The news is apt to encourage Google to keep supporting and promoting the platform.
    10 - Chromebooks Keep Growing
  • Android Fragmentation Isn't Easy to Solve

    Google execs have been saying for a while that they're going to handle the ongoing issue of Android fragmentation. But so far, those efforts appear to have been falling short. Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) holds 24.1 percent market share, despite its maturity. Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) has 18.6 percent market share while Android 4.1, 2, 3 (Jelly Bean) has a collective 54.5 percent share. The latest Android Release, Android 4.4 KitKat, holds just 1.1 percent share. It's hard to see how Google will ever do anything or even particularly want to do something to solve Android fragmentation.
    11 - Android Fragmentation Isn't Easy to Solve

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