If you're looking for the following:
- A long-term investment …
- With little chance of irrelevance …
- And a large chance of continued innovation …
- That could be run by a ham sandwich …
- And enjoys high margins, with dominant positions in growing markets …
Then the simplest answer is to invest in Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) . The search engine is the modern-day conglomerate: huge, yet technologically fierce enough for growth.
Remember when you didn't search the Web for things? Well, there's a whole new generation that doesn't. Finding information on the Internet is a crucial aspect of today's society and will continue to be as the Internet, its users, and information itself grow into the future. Humans search Google 5 billion times per day. Each search allows Google to improve its results further. It also allows Google to deliver ads to users.
What's that worth? Google makes almost $30 in revenue per user each year. Comparatively, Chinese search engine Baidu (NYSE: BIDU ) earns about $10 in yearly revenue per user. As Google grows its products, it can keep pulling in users and improving its products.
How is Google hooking users? Look at its Chrome browser. When it was released in 2008, Internet Explorer had an almost 70% share of the market, while Mozilla's Firefox took a majority of the rest at a little under 30%. Other browsers had been trying to crack into a meaningful share of the market for years, with little success. Google's superior browser, combined with its ability to easily market it to millions of people, allowed it to soar in usage, and in May it beat out Internet Explorer for the top browser when both had about a 31% market share.
Google's other projects include its Nexus 7 tablet, YouTube, Gmail, Google Plus, and Google Drive, among others, and each one will help Google maintain and grow users into the future.
Beyond its current products and services, Google is using its resources to shape society's future. Look at its Google Glass project -- wearable glasses with a computer -- or its self-driving car project. Either one of these alone could be worth Google's current $250 billion market capitalization. How? Well, Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPhone has shown just how lucrative one revolutionary product could be. Henry Blodget estimates that the iPhone makes up two-thirds of Apple's profit and will make more than $30 billion in operating profits this year. Self-driving cars are estimated to make up 75% of cars on the road in 2040, according to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. A Wired article states, "GM's Cadillac division expects to produce partially autonomous cars at a large scale by 2015, and the automaker also predicts it will have fully autonomous cars available by the end of the decade."
Warren Buffett likes investing in companies that could be run by a ham sandwich. Google could be run by a ham sandwich, but it continues to attract top talent and might have one of the deepest benches of talent in management. So much so that other companies look for former Google employees to lead their own companies. As The Wall Street Journal reports, "Former Googlers either head up or help run such companies as Twitter, AOL, and Facebook (Nasdaq: FB ) ." The latest high-profile Googler to lead another company is Yahoo!'s (Nasdaq: YHOO ) Marissa Mayer, who has instituted a rule stating if a new product can't reach 100 million users or make $100 million in revenue, Yahoo won't develop it.
Dominance in growing markets
While Facebook is worried that a trend toward mobile will hurt advertising, Google holds more than half of mobile advertising's market share. Through 2012, eMarketer forecasts that Facebook will have only 2.8% of mobile advertising, compared with Google's 54.5%. This market is expected to nearly triple from $2.6 billion in 2012 to $6.6 billion in 2014, and end up near $12 billion by 2016.
And a benefit of its advertising business model is the high profit margin, last year earning a net profit margin of more than 25%. This gives Google significant leeway before actually losing money and also represents that customers are willing to pay for its superior advertising platform.
A simple choice. However ...
Google is a fantastic company, but its share price has also run up more than 30% over the past three months. This might make you hesitant to purchase shares, and if so, just make sure to put Google on your watchlist for when it potentially dips in price. Otherwise, know that even the 30% price appreciation could pale in comparison with Google's future returns.
For three other easy buy decisions, read our free report: "3 Dow Stocks Dividend Investors Need." These three companies embody the term high-quality, and all pay a higher dividend than the S&P 500 taken as a whole.