Google turns 11 with an eye on Microsoft

Still young, Google looks to offer viable options to Office, IE -- even Windows

Eleven years ago, Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google Inc. with a search engine and a plan. Now their company has grown into an online behemoth battling head-to-head with industry giant Microsoft Corp. while the term Google has become a verb that means "search the Internet."

Obviously, a lot has changed for the company and its founders since Sept. 27, 1998.

Google celebrated its anniversary this year quietly, doing little more than changing the famed Google logo on its search page to a "doodle" that said Googlle, with an extra L to form the number 11.

But however it chooses to celebrate its birthday, Google is one of the great Internet success stories. The company not only owns the search market, holding a share of more than 64%, it has also branched out over the years, offering its hosted Google Apps applications like Gmail, as well as Google Maps, Google Earth and other products.

More recently, Google has moved to take on Microsoft and its widely-used Internet Explorer in the browser market, and it even disclosed plans this summer to develop an alternative to the Windows operating system. Just yesterday, Google announced plans to release an early version of its Google Wave collaboration tool to 100,000 users and developers for testing.

"I would say Google is the most influential Web company out there," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research Inc. "It's rare to have a company grow like that, but we've seen others. It's just that the others either flamed out, were acquired or haven't yet reached a sustainable state. Look at Netscape, MySpace, Twitter, Youtube and Facebook."

Caroline Dangson, an analyst at IDC, noted that Google easily emerged as the top consumer Web brand in a survey that the research firm conducted last year.

"We have found that with consumer surveys, [Google] is the No. 1 consumer brand," she said. "We conducted a survey including Yahoo, MSN, eBay, Amazon... different consumer Web properties. Google was No. 1 for all of our questions, from 'How much do you like the brand?' to 'How much do you use the brand?' to 'How much do you trust the brand?' There are few companies that are able to grow and dominate in this way."

Google has grown to the point where it has become a threat to Microsoft, which has had a long and storied history of high-tech industry dominance. There was a time not so long ago when few believed that any company could rattle Microsoft, let alone a Web company like Google.

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