On 15th anniversary, Google is a historical tech powerhouse

With focusing on so many areas, can Google maintain its position?

Fifteen years ago today, people were making their first Google searches.

Google hadn't yet become a verb meaning "to search." No one was using an Android smartphone. No one was watching movies on a Chromebook or wearing Google Glass while hot air ballooning and sharing their adventures on Google+.

On its 15th anniversary, Google has grown from its early days as a search engine company to a powerhouse not only in the high-tech world but in the mainstream world, as well.

For fun, try a Google search for "Google in 1998" to check out how the homepage as it looked 15 years ago. Today it celebrated its 15th anniversary with a homepage doodle of a colorful pinata.

Whether Google can maintain this kind of momentum or whether innovations are hitting a plateau is the question.

"Google is one of, if not the most, powerful technology company in the world. I don't know many people who would dispute that," said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Technology Company. "In fact, it could be argued that Google is one of the most powerful companies in the world today. Who wouldn't say that Google doesn't have more sway over the world than an oil company like Exxon, or a large bank, or even the world's largest private employer -- Wal-Mart? Google touches many more people's lives daily than any of those companies."

Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group, said Google has gained historical power.

"Its information reach and control over advertising revenue likely make it more powerful than some governments and certainly stronger than either Microsoft or IBM were at their peak," Enderle said. "They are approaching the power of Standard Oil in the early part of the last century."

Olds said it shouldn't be assumes that Google has hit its apex and now will coast until the next big company comes along and pushes Google into the shadows - much like Google did when it eclipsed search rival Yahoo years ago.

"It's very difficult to say if Google is plateauing right now, of if they're poised to extend their reach even more," Olds said. "Several years ago, people thought Google's high-growth phase was done. They had conquered search and online advertising, but they were fumbling around to find a second act. As we've all seen, Google found that second act in services like YouTube and products like the Android operating system and its associated ecosystem."

One area for concern, according to many industry watchers, is that Google risks becoming unfocused or splintered. The company is far from just a search company, as it was in its early days.

People, and enterprises, have come to rely on its other services and products, such as Google Maps, Google Docs and Chrome. Google's Android smartphones are a direct threat to Apple's iPhone and iPad empire.

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