Most Innovative Companies 2012 Update: Google

Since we placed it as our third Most Innovative Company, Google has had a curious 2012. It's made serious efforts to close down some of its sprawling experimental products, but at the same time has made bold leaps into new product categories, such as its own-branded Nexus 7 tablet PC that was seen as the first serious Android threat to Apple's iPad dominance.

Perhaps Google's vision clears up if you sport its new Google Glass augmented reality goggles. This device thrilled developers and tech-watchers excited for its 2013 debut, but Larry Page probably wished he was wearing some to help him deal with a juicy leak of company finances.

At least Android itself marched steadily (robotically?) on, dominating the global smartphone scene so that there are now over half a billion Android devices worldwide and 1.3 million new ones are activated daily. There was one slip-up in Android's seemingly unstoppable advance, however, when figures released at the end of March suggested the open source OS had only generated total revenues of $550 million for Google since 2008, and that Google's smartphone apps on the iPhone and other platforms make it far more money. So it likely stung when Apple pulled the Google-driven Maps app for its new iOS 6 and replaced it with an in-house solution.

But Page surely found consolation in YouTube's performance—which continues to be solid. It's redirecting its channel-centric efforts right now, withdrawing funding for about 60% of its new channels in order to concentrate its efforts on the remaining ones, and the video clip website is being positioned to be a key component in Google's ongoing push to transform TV from something passive into something actively social.

Meanwhile, Chrome's still a popular web browser, but has lost market share for a couple of months now. And though Google+ is continually being promoted by Google and bolted, glued, and welded into every product you can imagine, there's still an open question about how many people use it meaningfully.

With mixed results for Google in 2012, perhaps it's no surprise that earlier this year Page lost his voice under mysterious circumstances. Will it be back at full strength in 2013? Why don't you use Google's voice search app to try to find out?

[Image: Flickr user Cody Austin]

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