This week, Google
Interestingly enough, Google was originally named BackRub. In 1995, Stanford grads Larry Page and Sergey Brin were on a mission to understand how to best search the Web. They decided to analyze back links; if a website is linked by many other sites, they reasoned, it probably has relevant information.
While lots of their peers were looking to strike gold from the Web, Page and Brin just wanted to create top-notch technology. Seven years later, that ideal has fostered a Google culture that prizes "utility and ease of use," professes to be "in love with innovation," and urges its designers to "focus on the user and all else will follow." It's a philosophy that has helped propel Google to the top of the search-engine food chain.
Since its inception, Google has unleashed a tidal wave of innovation: Google Image Search, Google Toolbar, the massive storage capacity of Gmail, Google Blog Search, Google Desktop Search, Google Talk, Google News, Local Search, and many others. The company may not have come first to all of those ideas, but it's often carried them out in superior ways.
Compare Google's development to that of more traditional technology companies. Hewlett-Packard
In contrast, Google smartly bought up companies and technologies to stay ahead of the curve. Its acquisitions include blogging leader Pyra Labs, digital photo manager Picasa, web analytics group Urchin Software, online discussion group aggregator Deja.com, and the satellite mapping masters at Keyhole. Google's approach downplays the pursuit of specific customer bases to concentrate on acquiring innovations that fit with its primary focus. In my opinion, Google's strategy has allowed it to build a bundle of services that extend the reach of its core function while logically complementing one another.
That makes for a pretty company, but there's no guarantee that Google will be able to maintain its dominance. There may be some way to eventually weaken the moat around its search empire; after all, everyone likes a piece of Rule Breaker pie.
Brilliant technologist Philippe Kahn tried to conquer Microsoft in the 1990s with his company, Borland
That's a heady and well-conceived message for a company that just marked its seventh birthday.
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Fool contributor Tom Taulli holds no financial position in any companies mentioned in this article.