And though he also watches Amazon's business closely, Strawn says that Google's business is in a league of its own. "It is truly impressive what they've done. They'll continue to amaze us going forward. Google is truly unique with the talent available to them."
Other big IT competitors, such as Microsoft, certainly aren't out of the picture, Strawn said, but they have very different products and are built on different technology ecosystems compared to Google. "Microsoft still holds, among other things, two very, very important platforms for the tech world, Windows and Office," Strawn said. "And despite what we see with the decline in the number of PCs sold and the rise of mobile, Microsoft is still a very powerful revenue-generation engine, and it is still very relevant."
On the other hand, he said, "Google's business is unique. It doesn't sell software. It sells advertising. [The two companies] have incentives that don't align."
Google certainly faces its own competitive challenges. Amazon, for example, has beaten Google to the punch by giving enterprises and the public access to comprehensive cloud infrastructure, Strawn said. "Amazon is really the company that came out with a public cloud early on, in a meaningful way," he said. "Google has only released its Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platform to the public recently. In many ways, they are late to the game."
Amazon and Google got to the point of offering their cloud infrastructure capabilities in different ways, he noted. For Amazon's e-commerce business, it had to build out a complex and expensive infrastructure of its own to run its business. Then it realized that it could rent out excess capacity to generate revenue and pay for the infrastructure.
Now Google is beginning to really go after that same opportunity, which is growing rapidly, according to Strawn. Ultimately, though, while Google is heading into this IaaS area that had been dominated by Amazon, "it doesn't really align with their core business, which is generating revenue based on advertising."
For Google, though, the move into the infrastructure business actually closes a circle, Strawn said. "Almost everything that they are involved in, even self-driving cars, can be tied back to digital advertising, to the process of gathering data and then using that data to display ads," he said.
In that light, getting involved in the infrastructure business makes sense because, like Amazon, Google already has a massive and complex IT infrastructure so it basically has everything it needs to be competitive in the market, he added. "Just due to the nature of their business, they have the data centers and infrastructure ready to offer this up to the rest of the world."
So will Google overtake Amazon as the leader in the IaaS marketplace? Will IaaS be a large part of the company's revenue stream five years from now?
Probably not, Strawn said. "I don't think so because their ad revenue business is so powerful and it will continue to grow," far exceeding anything that the company will bring in from its cloud business.