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Surprisingly, the areas in which Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL ) is least successful are those which get the most of advertising and press. While the Android ecosystem is the most used on the planet by an enormous margin, very few commercials air pushing Android. The devices are hyped, but even their use of Android is subtle. On the other hand, the Google Nexus 7 has ads that run fairly regularly. The device has been well received, and though it still trails the Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) iPad family by a wide margin, it has become a serious challenger to Amazon's (NASDAQ: AMZN ) Kindle Fire Line. Cloud computing and software solutions go virtually unmentioned in most of Google's self-created press.
Perhaps the best example of Google's quiet success has been the performance of its stock. While the meteoric rise of Apple shares, followed by the not-so-pleasant correction, was a top financial story, Google has quietly kept pace, recently outperforming Apple. This is somewhat attributable to Apple reaching the status as the largest company on earth by market capitalization, but as the chart below reveals, over the past six months, Google shares have thrashed Apple's. By understanding some of these silent victories, you will be able to see why Google belongs at the very core of your portfolio for the long haul.
Quietly running away
For a company that rose to fame for its search capabilities, Google has significantly expanded its product offerings over the last several years. In each of the following areas, Google has become one of the dominant players in the marketplace:
- Cloud computing: In the realm of cloud computing, a significant part of Google's success has been the availability of Google Apps. Through this online suite of software, users can get access to Gmail, Docs, Spreadsheets, Calendar and other components. Not only do the applications integrate well with one another, they function smoothly through Google's Chrome browser. And because everything on Google Apps is is stored in the cloud, users have access to their work from any Internet connection, and software applications are always up to date, without the need for upgrades at the user level. The company has prompted widespread adoption by individuals, increasingly including corporate clients and governments.
- Software: A central part of Google's successful push into cloud computing has been the availability of the software contained in Google Apps. While the functionality of many of the applications in this software suite is somewhat limited, particularly when compared to a full version of Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) Office, it is sufficient for many users. One of the drawbacks of resident software, like Microsoft Office, is that it requires a fair amount of maintaining. Companies often spend more on maintaining the software than they do purchasing the licenses to grant them access.
- Android: To suggest that Android's success is truly flying below the radar would be disingenuous, but it's not really hyped, either, considering its truly mammoth share of its overall market. While we have all seen more than our share of advertisements for the Android platform phones -- including those made by Motorola, which is also owned by Google -- the Android element of these is never the focus. The Apple faithful will point out that because Apple is responsible for both the device and the OS on the iPhone, this is an unfair comparison. That said, the numbers speak for themselves. According to information from research firm IDC, Google currently owns 68% of the global smartphone market, compared to 17% for Apple.
And then there's search
In a landscape that at one point boasted as many search engines as companies could throw ".com" into their names, Google has emerged as the decisive victor. While Microsoft's Bing and Yahoo! still figure somewhere into the mix, the King of Search is undisputed. So total is Google's dominance that the company name has become a common verb in today's lexicon. Again, this is not new information for any of us, but it is easy to gloss over when others are grabbing most of the headlines.
Search is key both for its obvious importance in terms of ad revenue, but also for how it plays into Google's mobile strategy. As smaller screens continue to grab the "first screen" position, Google is working to integrate its mobile strategy into the company's overall framework. This is a clear advantage over its top rivals -- Apple and Amazon -- that do not have the same ease of entry into the mobile space on this level.
As Apple shares have so conveniently shown us, no stock is without risk and no company is infallible. The appeal of Google is its broad base of revenue streams and strategic vision. Even in areas that are not driving big numbers today, the company continues to pursue a properly diversified approach. Google belongs at the very core of your portfolio.
As one of the most dominant Internet companies ever, Google has made a habit of driving strong returns for its shareholders. However, like many other web companies, it's also adapting to an increasingly mobile world. Despite gaining an enviable lead with its Android operating system, the market isn't sold. That's why it's more important than ever to understand each piece of Google's sprawling empire. In The Motley Fool's new premium research report on Google, we break down the risks and potential rewards for Google investors. Simply click here now to unlock your copy of this invaluable resource, and you'll receive a year's worth of key updates and expert guidance as news continues to develop.