Google in 10 years? Even bigger, say analysts

Google logos are displayed on a computer screen in San Francisco.
Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Google logos are displayed on a computer screen in San Francisco.

Google is undeniably a big deal, and analysts believe it's only getting bigger. Ten years after it went public, the search and advertising giant has become an indispensable part of many people's daily lives.

With a healthy cash stockpile on hand, an active venture capital arm and a cache that's unrivaled in the online world, Google should be able to not only maintain its king of the hill status, but expand upon it over the next decade, analysts say.

"Google is one of those companies that's well positioned to be in a tech leadership role over the next 10 years," said Kerry Rice of Needham & Co. "The risk of them losing their leadership position is minimal. They have the monetary and foresight resources to stay on top of trends."

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That combination of cash and prescience gives the company an advantage in spotting potential long-term competitive threats, too. It also helps Google expand into new areas that are just beginning to show their potential, as it did with its early backing of the Android operating system, which it bought out in 2005.

Mobile, of course, will continue to grow, but beyond phones and tablets, the company has recently begun expanding into other areas of day-to-day life. It's making a run at the living room via Chromecast, it has a strong foothold in the Internet of Things via its purchase of Nest and Dropcam, and no one, with the possible exception of the NSA, has a bigger treasure trove of data-mined personal information.

But even as it expands into those other areas, it's protecting its search and advertising base. There has been Wall Street speculation that Google attempted to acquire both Yelp and Trulia in the past five years, said Aaron Kessler of Raymond James. And while neither effort proved successful, it shows the company is already looking at emerging patterns.

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"The next wave in search is vertical," Kessler said. "There's going to be a long-term debate on whether horizontal search engines [like Google] still work well for consumers or do those consumers want more vertical ones, like using Yelp for local or Amazon for e-commerce? ... I think Google has made some strides toward answering that."

Like Amazon and Apple, Google is a company that's expanding on its core competencies and building a larger ecosystem, testing incremental services to see which might become core businesses. And in Google's case, the company is testing its reach outside the virtual world.

Nest, for example, gives the company not only a presence in homes, but the ability to further extend the data it collects from users. In June, Google announced it was connecting some apps to Nest, letting people use voice commands to change the temperature, but, in the process, allowing the company to know whether they were at home or not. Users had to opt in to share the information with Google.

"At the end of the day, a lot of this is about data," Rice said. "Data is going to be, if not the currency, the fuel for a lot of things Google is doing. They know what's popular with Nest. They're going to know more about your home and energy use—and they're spending a lot of investment capital on alternative energy programs."

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Other experimental programs could make the company a threat to existing offline businesses.

"Think about the self driving cars ... and how that can impact someone's life," Rice said. "That can give coordinates about where people are traveling and what businesses they're passing. What if you could harness self-driving cars to deliver packages? Does that put pressure on the FedExes of the world? Or the UPSes of the world? Or the Ubers of the world?"

What's less certain is how lucrative these operations will be. Experts note that in order for Google to remain king of the hill, it has to be willing to expand and stave off potential competitors by establishing dominance—or at least a sizable presence—in emerging fields early.

"The Internet of Things is going to be a big topic over the next 10 years," Kessler said. "I also foresee Google continuing to evolve beyond a tech search company. It has become more of a media company with purchases like YouTube and Twitch, and I think Google has some vision of becoming more of a media company longer term. It's not clear how they're going to make profits off of those platforms, but it has great potential."

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—By Chris Morris, special to CNBC