Google’s $700 million deal last week to take control of ‘travel company’ ITA has been widely reported over the weekend, but few appear to have noticed the strategic-value of the acquisition. Anybody browsing the story may have expected ITA to be an Expedia or Ebookers, type site but in fact ITA is a software company specialising in the travel industry. Looking closer at the deal it is ITA’s flagship software, QPX which Google appears to see as the value in the deal.
Just over a decade ago the internet was still in its fledgling years. There were fewer sites and those that did exist often focused on just one service to its visitors; Google was a much smaller search directory, as was Yahoo then a market-leader for search with a hierarchical tree to also browse that proved popular. Then companies began adding ‘value’ to their sites. The push towards portals changed the way people accessed information of all kinds and probably paid a part in drawing in internet-non-believers as to the value and convenience on the web.
Yet, while Yahoo and many others made their focus that of a first-port-of-call site with lots of different information on their home page, Google ticked along focusing on the search directory side of things to become the chosen home page of many. In many ways, Google’s success came from the fact that it kept things clean and simple and didn’t clutter a home page with lots of information other than the result of a search.
Over recent years, the development of igoogle means registered Google users can effectively create their own portal – customised to their own desires – but the fact is, the main URL still opens up a very simple, clean search tool interface with none of the fancy stuff.
Yet, recent developments at Google with Google Apps, the improved Google News and now the acquisition of ITA suggest that the Google philosophy might be changing to a more portal focused one. ITA’s, QPX suite is the choice of many leading airlines and travel companies allowing users to benefit from a billion combinations per query in respect of fares, schedules, and availability.
It is the ultimate tool in linking space on flights to people wanting to fly. If Google can harness that power and integrate that search into its own site, alongside its other own brand products Google could put a powerful portal at the fingertips of all its users. With the boom of touchpad technology and apps to launch items instead of typing into browsers, set to come following the success of Apple’s iPad, now might just be the right time for Google to move more permanently into that portal world.
Whether that is their intention or not we will have to wait and see. What is interesting to watch is the way Google is repositioning itself in the minds of internet users and those beyond that it is more than just a search tool.