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Technology
If Google’s stream of innovation is anything to go by, there’s clearly something in the water in Mountain View, California. From making noise for its self-driving cars to taking advantage of Apple’s Maps fumble to releasing the straight-out-of-Star Trek Google Glass, the company once described as a search engine has found its voice as a true leader of the technology age. Tech-savvy or not, anyone who has continuous, or even intermittent, access to the internet is aware of the brand, and likely a user of at least one of its numerous offerings. Whether through phone, tablet, computer, or car, the brand is ever-present.

As powerful as it is ubiquitous, Google controls about one-third of all online advertising spending, according to eMarketer research. At the same time, evolutionary changes in core offerings like search, Android (mobile operating systems), and Gmail continue to keep Google ahead of the pack, ensuring that users who are “one click away” from the competition never stray.

Google’s relentless adaptation attests to the fact that the brand tries to anticipate and fulfill the needs of its consumers across a variety of areas. The company is constantly assessing its products, phasing out services and offerings that are no longer relevant or are simply unprofitable, and introducing new ones. This responsive behavior suggests that Google pays attention to what consumers like and don’t like—a big reason why overall sentiment for the brand is positive.

However, the year hasn’t been perfect for the company, with anti-trust questions being raised in the US and Europe, and its involvement in the PRISM scandal flying in the face of its “don’t be evil” corporate motto. That said, Google’s search engine is still outperforming those of rivals Yahoo! and Microsoft, and experimental forays like Project Loon, which aims to deliver 3G internet to remote areas via solar-powered balloons in the stratosphere, continue to remind us that Google is more than a search engine.

The company also remains one of the world’s best places to work, with employees enjoying a range of perks, programs to help them do their jobs better, and encouragement to explore innovative ideas. Though some are disappointed to see an end to Google Reader and iGoogle, recent acquisitions such as Channel Intelligence, an e-commerce optimization site, promise to bolster Google Shopping and bring the company closer to direct competition with Amazon.

With ad spending as a percentage of revenue now almost on par with rival technology companies, Google continues to work hard on gaining market share in areas beyond search. Yet, these forays lead to significant fragmentation in terms of brand and marketing decisions, and consumers don’t seem to understand how Google’s vast array of products actually tie back to search or any unifying theme beyond innovation for innovation’s sake.

While some confusion still exists between the various brands that make up Google’s portfolio (e.g., YouTube, Android, and Motorola Mobility) and the “always be in beta” mindset may be a bit lost on lay end-users, big bets on innovations that will change how the world lives with technology will continue set Google apart from its competitors.