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How Google May Be Overreaching


And why it should be.

This week, Google (GOOG) launched a global marketing campaign to advertise its online apps to business holdouts still relying on desktop programs by Microsoft (MSFT), Apple (AAPL), and IBM (IBM).

According to the media giant, more than two million businesses worldwide have made the shift to its popular online suite, which includes Gmail, Google Docs, and Picasa. Diving headlong into this global initiative, the company hopes to gain some ground across the pond in France and England, sway some folks down under in Australia, and whip the competition in Canada, Japan, and Singapore.

Dubbed "Gone Google," this campaign -- which ran domestically in August -- is now aimed at IT and business executives around the world. Aside from prominent online and print ads, Gone Google will also take the form of billboards and signs in airlines and train stations.

This campaign comes on the heels of several new or expanded Google initiatives in the past few weeks.

Last week saw plans to unveil a Google online bookstore which could prove to be a major competitor to Amazon (AMZN) and Barnes and Noble (BKS). Requests are being considered for off-road locations in Google's Street View project. And Google Wave's recent beta launch had people clamoring for invitations to the new collaboration tool.

This, of course, is on top of the dozens -- if not hundreds -- of major products Google is currently juggling and set to unveil in the coming months. The question is: Are they spreading themselves too thin?

CEO Eric Schmidt would beg to differ. Following the announcement of its third-quarter earnings -- which, incidentally, beat analysts' predictions -- Schmidt boldly assured investors that search will always be the primary focus of Google. "We want to get to the perfect search engine," he said.

But the sentiment does seem to be at odds with Google's near future -- which hints at an all-out buying spree.

Schmidt said, "The worst of the recession is clearly behind us." Adding, "Because of what we've seen we can be optimistic about the future." As such, Google has set its sights on further expansion through investments and acquisitions.

To think, it was once just a simple search engine.

Google's suite of online apps has served millions of happy users for roughly three years, but will it receive the same share of attention once the company's operating system starts appearing on laptops in 2010? Could Google Earth or its web browser Chrome see faster and stronger development? Is Sidewiki going to (finally) put Knol out of its misery?

At this point, it's difficult to fathom which pies Google doesn't already have its fingers in. Search, email, web browsing, word processing, video, calendars, mobile phones, maps, VoIP, books, photos, and on and on and on. Even with nearly 20,000 employees, surely something could be lost in the shuffle, right?

Except for a few Gmail outages, it seems to be doing fine so far.

No one would argue that Google shouldn't be confident. A net of $1.64 billion -- up 27% from last year -- is definitely nothing to sneeze at. Its incessant innovation in almost every field has won support from countless amounts of satisfied users. Reliance on its services has grown so steadfast that the dust-ups between itself and Apple had iPhone owners terrified that Google apps would be blocked from the mobile device.

The search engine is what put Google on the map -- so to speak -- but its many apps are what made it indelible. Google has become the media behemoth it is through its many acquisitions and expansion -- not to mention it excels at nearly every venture it puts its name to. Despite having a full plate now, there's little indication Google can't handle a second helping.

Is Google at risk of overreaching? It already has.

Should it quit now? Not if it wants to remain successful.
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