I'm consistently amazed at how much Google resembles the Microsoft of the mid-'90s. Which is to say, a company with a core business so successful that it hides the fact that they fail at nearly everything else they touch. We all know how great Google's search-served ad product is. It accounts for something like 97 percent of the company's revenues. What people tend to ignore is how many of Google's other projects simply bleed money--or worse. Home-grown products, such as Orkut, Knols, Lively, and Google Checkout (knockoffs of Facebook, Wikipedia, Second Life, and PayPal, respectively), have been failures. The company's "successes" have come from acquisitions. For instance, Google bought YouTube after its own attempt at video on the web, Google Video, crashed and burned. And did the same with Blogger after its blog platform, Pyra Labs, failed. But even the "successful" acquisitions Google has made--Google Earth, Google Maps, and Google Docs, were all purchases, too--have taken up resources without creating significant revenue.
Now there's evidence that Google's impending dominance of the smartphone market may be overstated, too. Remember the Nexus One, Google's iPhone killer? In its first week of sales, the ballyhooed Nexus One sold 20,000 units. That's not a typo. Compare that with 250,000 units for the Motorolla Droid and 1.6 million units for the iPhone 3Gs (which is supposedly nearing the end of its lifecycle).
Not to worry. Whatever Google does next--Slate tells us that they're getting into the ISP business--you can be sure that the media will still pre-sell it as revolutionary and brilliant and destined to change the world. Again.