Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) gives its Android operating system away for free, because more searches mean more advertising revenue — at least theoretically. Manufacturers of Android-based devices have seized the opportunity and spread Google’s OS like wildfire, capturing nearly 80% of the global market share in smartphone shipments, according to IDC.
Though it’s synonymous with online search, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) is really more of a modern advertising company. It gets almost all of its revenue from ads, through services such as Google AdWords, an auction-based advertising program. Google matches ads on a webpage and gets paid either when a user clicks on one of its ads or based on the number of times an ad appears on the Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) Network.
The company’s business model works great in the U.S., but what about in countries like China that are less receptive to Google’s search engine and products? Even though Android accounts for the majority of smartphone sales on the mainland, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) doesn’t really make any money from this dominance. Why? Because most Android apps are free, and without Google’s ads, there is no revenue from mobile advertising either.
Why is China important?
China is a lucrative market because it maintains the largest online population in the world. China’s own search engine, Baidu Inc (ADR) (NASDAQ:BIDU) , owns over 67% of the Chinese search market as of May. Baidu Inc (ADR) (NASDAQ:BIDU) has another distinct advantage over Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG): It has the trust of the Chinese government. The company is no slouch either, and is looking to provide a broad range of goods and services, just like its American counterpart.
Baidu Inc (ADR) (NASDAQ:BIDU) recently introduced Total View for its mapping service. It’s a lot like the Chinese version of Google Street View, which doesn’t exist in China. The company is also planning on developing “smart televisions,” or TVs connected to the Internet, which should compliment its efforts to become the largest online-video platform in China, according to Bloomberg. It also bought out China’s largest third-party app store, 91 Wireless, for $1.9 billion back in July, which will further cement its place in China’s mobile market.
With Baidu Inc (ADR) (NASDAQ:BIDU) entrenched in its native market and offering comparable services, it is unlikely Google will find a way to monetize Android or gain much advertising revenue in China anytime soon.
Google is still a juggernaut
Even without China’s market, Google is still a beast of a company. Here is a look at its impressive growth over the last five years.