Motley Fool Rule Breakers is back on the road this week with Karl Thiel and I in Silicon Valley. Our schedule includes stops at Pacific Biosciences and Genomic Health as well IBM's (NYSE: IBM ) Almaden Research Center and VMware (NYSE: VMW ) . You can add any of these companies to our free watchlist service at the end of the article to continue receiving updates throughout the week.
But of them all, I'm most excited by the two days I'll be spending at Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) annual I/O developer conference.
Each year, The Big G invites code writers to see new ways to take advantage of its massive network and cloud infrastructure. This year the event is being held at San Francisco's Moscone Center, a megaplex that's held court for Macworld and other major tech events. More than 5,500 are expected to attend.
Most observers (me included) expect Google to answer or at least address lingering questions about its business at this year's I/O. Here are the three that gnaw at me as an investor:
1. How will Google deal with Android fragmentation? Should it care?
A confluence of reports says fragmentation is a problem but not a big enough one for developers to care about. Consider these three soundbites:
- A recent survey conducted by Baird found that 56% of developers believe fragmentation in Android is a "meaningful" or "huge" problem.
- The same survey found that 71% of developers writing for Android while 62% were creating software for Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iOS.
- A somewhat similar survey from IDC found that 91% of developers were "very interested" in writing for the iOS while 85% were as enthusiastic about Android.
Talk about incredible. Android may be messy, but coders love it about as much as they love iOS. We've seen these sorts of results before, in the early '90s when Windows was rising to prominence. Does that mean Google should leave Android alone? Or do developers deserve to have their concerns addressed?
2. What's the strategy for Chrome OS?
A new, separate yet Googly operating system made a lot of sense when netbooks were the "it" thing. But now Android has a massive developer following and tiny laptops have given way to tablets. Google even has a flavor of Android for tablets: Honeycomb.
But the story doesn't end there. The Chrome browser already acts a lot like an OS, accessing graphics processors directly in order to run Web-based apps at hyperspeed. Forthcoming features include technology for transforming speech into text within the browser and better rendering of 3-D visuals.
Each seems intended to make Chrome more like an OS than a browser, and it's this sort of approach that has users taking to it in greater numbers. According to new data from Net Applications, Chrome's share of the browser market rose to 11.94% in April while both Firefox and Internet Explorer declined. Are Google and its shareholders better served by going after the browser crown, or is having a full-fledged Web OS still a worthy goal?
3. What is Google's social media strategy?
None of us can fairly expect CEO Larry Page to get on stage and reveal all there is to know about Google's social media strategy but some directional clarity would be nice. Is it better to make all of Google's varying services social a la the +1 button, or is there room for a new and distinct social media service such as the rumored Circles? Right now, all we know is that bonuses are tied to The Big G's social success.
What question would you ask Google? What troubles you most as an investor? Or, conversely, what keeps you from investing in Google's stock? Please use the comments box below to let us know what you think.
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