This week Robin Bloor and his colleagues consider what's made Google such a success, the mobile workforce and why Oracle has partnered with Mercury Interactive...Google has been the recipient of some good news. It's the hottest property on the web, growing faster than any other site and still knocking the spots off the competition. All this from a firm that came from such humble beginnings back in the William Gates labs at Stanford. Last week Neilsen NetRatings, the web measurement people, released its latest monthly assessment. May 2002 belonged to Google. Through the course of the month the company added some four million unique users, giving it a grand total in excess of 55 million through May 2002. The growth is nothing short of staggering, particularly when you consider the full extent of the competition out there. This is testament to the management of the company and, of course, the beauty of its search capability. No surprise, therefore, that the company sits in fifth position in the global web properties list. Neilsen NetRatings puts Google's success down to brand management - some of it at least. It heaps praise on Google for its business development work over the years. But who'd have thought it. Founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page were a couple of doctoral students in computer science at Stanford University when they built their internet start-up around Linux. Brin and Page were throwing themselves into what would appear to be the already overcrowded market for search engines. But their engine, and ideas, were implemented well. Google quickly secured $25m in funding from Kleiner Perkins and Sequoia Capital, two competing Silicon Valley venture capitalists. While that number may seem staggering for a company's first round, what caused more jaws to drop was the company's newly named board members: yes, Mr Doerr, but also Sequoia's Michael Moritz. This well funded, well managed idea soon grew into something of a cult as everyone discovered that you could actually find your way around the web using it. That was back then. Today it's one of the most valuable internet properties on earth. *On the road again* Despite the various lulls in travel since 11 September, when flying naturally became far less appealing, the mobile workforce in the US is growing at a staggering rate of knots. The latest study from IDC shows that, far from becoming less appealing, the move to mobile is getting more popular by the day. Last year in the US, it is estimated there were as many as 92 million mobile workers tramping the highways and byways of the country. By 2006 this will have grown to a massive 105 million mobile workers. At the same time it is expected the static workforce, which seems like the best description for workers that aren't mobile, will shrink by 2 per cent during this period, taking it down to 53.8 million. Adding all this up, which IDC has kindly done, it equates to quite a shift. By 2006, assuming these figures are accurate, as much as two thirds of the US workforce will be working in a mobile capacity. This is a staggering turnaround. Having been born into a generation almost entirely reliant on the office, nowadays it seems it just isn't necessary. The computing revolution, coupled with the internet and more ready access to cheap technology, has been the great enabler for the mobile workforce movement, without which it would simply be stranded. The mobile workforce is something that has been threatening to take off for years, of course. It must have been more than 10 years ago that some, at the time ridiculed, individuals claimed a mobile workforce would be the next great wave in workforce dynamics. And the telcos, BT in particular, have always been great supporters -- they could spot the revenues a mile off. But mass adoption has been slow. IDC believes we are actually entering the fourth stage of mobile workforce development. And it seems to be entirely enabled by technology. In the past, the mobile workforce had its mobile phone and little else. Today it has palm-sized PCs that can link securely into corporate LANs. It has videoconferencing features and pretty much everything that it would have in the office. But without the real estate costs. It's all rather appealing. *Testing, testing..* In a joint announcement, Oracle and Mercury Interactive (MI) have agreed to bundle Mercury's testing tools into Oracle E-Business Suite. The purpose of this is to encourage customers to actually carry out some testing before they expose their online applications to an unsuspecting user community. The announcement heralds the availability of a Test Starter Kit based upon the capabilities from MI. This means the inclusion of reusable test plans and scripts that reflect the work regularly carried out by Oracle's own engineers. The big question is whether Oracle is feeling some pain from customers who are implementing their ebusiness applications without adequate testing and has felt the need to address the problem. The alternative is that this is a simple extension to the applications environment that is designed to add value to an Oracle 11i solution. Clearly, Oracle recognises the need for applications to be properly tested and there is actually quite a lot more than originally meets the eye. For one, a great deal of experience has gone into the Test Starter Kit. Most importantly, the development is based on the work being done every day by Oracle's own people and that the test plans and scripts are strong templates that can be reused. It is another example of a major vendor that is looking to see which parts of its own implementation processes can be automated. Between them Oracle and MI have come up with a foundation that will allow businesses to carry out much more rigorous testing than is the norm, and in a way that should not make excessive demands on application builders. Once the plans are in place, of course, they can be used over and over again for each new release of Oracle software or when new application developments are put into place. As always, the investment in testing capabilities has long term benefits and this is what Oracle has bought into. From MI's point of view, this can be seen as another success in its strategy to become the absolute leader in application management and testing. It already dominates the market for testing tools but it has been working hard to increase the size of that market through partnerships with application providers. This is a big step forward for MI, in terms of increasing availability and awareness of testing and monitoring of applications, and for Oracle in terms of helping its customers to deliver better quality solutions. **Bloor Research is a leading independent analyst organisation in Europe. You can find out more at http://www.bloor-research.com or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .