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Tepid Results from Google's New Product Process 237

Posted by Zonk
from the still-a-fan-of-their-search-thingie dept.
bart_scriv writes "BusinessWeek digs into Google's new products, first interviewing Marissa Mayer on the process behind the recent flurry of product launches; the essential process: 'try a bunch of new ideas, refine them and see what survives'. How successful is the process? Despite lots of fanfare, a close look at the products reveals that Google still hasn't produced a huge winner: 'An analysis of some two dozen new ventures launched over the past four years shows that Google has yet to establish a single market leader outside its core search business, where it continues to chew up Microsoft and Yahoo.'"
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Tepid Results from Google's New Product Process

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  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu.gmail@com> on Friday June 30, 2006 @09:22AM (#15635605) Journal

    Google is an amazing search-engine success, spearheading some of the greatest technology, especially internet, innovation and competition in the last twenty years. That's as it should be. And Google has pulled off so far what noone else has, a head start, salvo across Microsoft's bow from which Microsoft still has not recovered.

    Each additional degree of Microsoft's ship's list translates into that much more level of a playing field. Google more than any other single company has been the greatest contributor to that.

    And, as it should be on a more level field, Google isn't going to get a free pass on their other work. That's great! Google has had some false starts with their other products. That's great! Google may even fail completely with some of their work. That's great!

    At least Google (and now others) are all on point together, sweating out the competition, working on that next great internet killer app, and they're all having to compete publicly for a change.

    I'll take three-year Betas any day over "announced" but yet un-priced future products from other large software companies. I'll try less-than-great first efforts any day over products tied to my architecture, leaving me no choices.

    Google's going to fail with some of their efforts, but they've changed the landscape of the internet, and internet applications, software competition, and user choices. Hopefully, forever.

    (A worrisome problem: the stockholders' pressure on these companies keeps pushing on these companies to produce and show profit now. I applaud Microsoft, in one example, in their snubbing of shareholders by announcing huge investments in R&D, rather than upping their dividends. In the long run, companies that stay focused will be the winners, for themselves, for the consumers, and for the shareholders (though, I still hold Microsoft in high suspicion for their motivation for pouring huge resources into R&D, aka... working on cutting off someone else's air supply.))

    • Mod parent up (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Kazzahdrane (882423)
      If I had mod points you'd get +1 Insightful from me. There's too much "M$ sux0rz" and "Google are the one true God" from some people here, nice to see a thoughtful post of an opinion for a change.
    • Google's going to fail with some of their efforts, but they've changed the landscape of the internet, and internet applications, software competition, and user choices. Hopefully, forever.

      Google is collapsing under their own weight. I went through their hiring process looking to take on a management role, it was slow and focused on the wrong things. By th etime they would have come to a conclusion my search would have been over. And most of the things that would have been a big draw there 4 years ago ar

      • by datdjrobp (753238) on Friday June 30, 2006 @09:51AM (#15635794) Journal
        So all you're really saying is you applied there too late?
      • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Friday June 30, 2006 @10:17AM (#15635974) Homepage

        And my experience was the opposite. Though I can't really give any details, as I got the job and have now signed an pretty far-reaching NDA, the recruitment process for Google Engineering was extremely rapid despite consisting of over 7 hours of interviews!

        The questions were very thorough, really that's the deepest and widest technical interview I've ever done, though I was slightly surprised at the lack of interest in asking traditional personal-type interview questions. Even so I was generally impressed at how slick the thing was. They hire constantly and it shows - the longest I had to wait for feedback before going onto the next stage was about a week. Very far from "collapsing under their own weight".

        Maybe their executive/management and technical recruitment are wildly different in terms of quality, it's certainly possible. But anyway, consider your anecdote matched.

      • They are adding on thousands of employees every quarter. For instance, in one quarter, they went from 5500 employees to over 6700. Perhaps the problem wasn't with Google, but with you? Maybe the hiring person just didn't have the heart to call you and tell you that you weren't qualified and up to snuff?
        • Maybe the hiring person just didn't have the heart to call you and tell you that you weren't qualified and up to snuff?

          For the record, the notice I had passed the screening and was selected for a phone interview included an appointment for that interview set 1 month in the future. It sounded absurd so I verified it and was told it was normal. The hiring rate you mention doesn't mean much, they could have a 9 month process from application to offer and still hire a thousand people in a day. Almost nobody

      • And most of the things that would have been a big draw there 4 years ago are gone, they have IPO'd...

        One of the main rules of interview teams within startups I've been a part of... if their big draw to work with us is the option riches, reject.

        • One of the main rules of interview teams within startups I've been a part of... if their big draw to work with us is the option riches, reject.

          So you're looking for people too stupid to consider their total compensation? Or maybe you think you're so special that people should be paying you for the privledge of working with you

          Startups are inherently unstable and prone to failure. Quite often they can't afford to pay what stable companies can pay, and might be missing things like 401k's, wil require lon

      • I went through their hiring process looking to take on a management role, it was slow and focused on the wrong things. ...in your opinion. Google's HR department may have a different view of the process.

        I think all that can really be concluded from your experience is that you and Google were not a good match for each other.
    • by webword (82711)
      I think that people are too focused on Google being a search company. You have to follow the money. Google is an advertising company, not a search company.
    • by tambo (310170) on Friday June 30, 2006 @09:59AM (#15635830)
      At least Google (and now others) are all on point together, sweating out the competition, working on that next great internet killer app, and they're all having to compete publicly for a change.

      I agree that this is good, but if they just keep producing killer apps in the same fashion - producing Google SQL to compete with MS Access, Google Present! to compete with PowerPoint, etc. - then they might see just the same tepid response that they're receiving now.

      Hypothetical: What if Google produces an analog for every single application that you use today, only it's free and on the web? Prediction: You still wouldn't use them, or would only use them occasionally.

      Well, what's the problem, then? The problem is that web apps - Google's as much as anyone else's - don't offer the unified experience of a locally-installed software base.

      Google Earth is a silo: you visit that site, and you do your satellite-spy thing, and then you leave.

      Google Picasa is a silo: you visit the site, and you edit your photos, and then you leave.

      Gmail is a silo: you visit the site, and you check and write email, and then you leave.

      The model here is that every time you want to do something, you have to load up a browser, visit the site, and begin fresh work on some data. Data exchange between applications is limited at best: you might be able to extract some data (hoping it's in the right format) and upload it to another silo - but if not, you're strictly limited to copying and pasting some raw text.

      Contrast this with your experiences working on a local software base. Everything is immediately available within a few clicks away from the Start Button, or the Mighty Apple, or your *n?x right-click menu - even if you don't have an internet connection. You have file associations; you have drag-and-drop; you have object linking; you have interoperability of office applications. And you have filesystem organization - if a project involves some email, some Word files, and a few spreadsheets, you can keep them all in the same folder.

      You get none of this with the current generation of web apps.

      Now if Google's gaggle of research efforts are some of the elements of a future GoogleOS, that's very promising. But they consistently (publicly) deny that that's their goal. And regardless of where Google might go tomorrow, it doesn't much impact what it is today: a company with many fledgling projects... but too little cohesion. Meanwhile, Microsoft is going more in this direction, with WinFS and Avalon and such. Its efforts are kind of sucky because it's not really motivated by competition, but at least its aim is correct.

      I hope Google succeeds - if nothing else, Bob knows that the desktop software market has been stagnant since, oh, 1995 or so. We need some competition and fresh blood. But that's not a trend that one can extrapolate from its current model.

      - David Stein

      • by cygnusx (193092) * on Friday June 30, 2006 @10:53AM (#15636234) Homepage
        > You get none of this with the current generation of web apps.

        You're right about the current generation, but the writing is on the wall...

        Imagine a browser that ships with database (these days modern processors can run MySQL or SQL Server Desktop Edition pretty easily) and has top-notch WebDAV support.

        Now imagine that unlike Firefox's relatively sucky file manager capabilities (well, it does give you a list of files if you type file:///), this browser's file manager look more like Nautilus and can do local files + WebDAV seamlessly.

        Now imagine you have a rich control toolkit, like the WHAT-WG is cooking up, and that applications using these rich controls can be cached locally and take advantage of the local relational data store (the built-in database) to store data when the user is offline.

        Just for kicks, add in a scheduler that can reliably move large files across localstoragewebstore.

        By now, you have enough 'richness' in this 'browser' that it can with some justification call itself a GUI shell. Throw in an IM and email client and a large percentage of PC (including Mac) users wouldn't need much else.

        As for 'silos', well-- implementing a clipboard on the web is simple using XML, as Ray Ozzie demonstrated recently. And if a rich browser environment ever caught on, I'd expect websites will soon start plugging into each other's UI seamlessly using a 'parts' approach.

        Prediction: Google will do this (probably by working with the Mozilla Foundation). Because (a) it makes sense for them to do it (their advertising model works wonderfully here) and (b) if they don't, Microsoft will. Why would Microsoft do this? Because it'll improve the PC experience and make apps more web-like (install-on-demand, auto-upgradeable, etc) and because there's a real chance they can get annuity from customers (which improves stock price) instead of one-time sales. Of course, Microsoft does online ad sales now, so they'll probably offer a free ad-supported version as well.

      • Silo? (Score:3, Informative)

        >Gmail is a silo: you visit the site, and you check and write email, and then you
        >leave.

        Huh? Like when there's an address in the email, and Google offers to map it for me? Like when there's a time in the email, and Google offers to put it on my calendar?

        I have a GMail tab open at all times.
        • Huh? Like when there's an address in the email, and Google offers to map it for me?

          I've been using Gmail for about two years, and I've never seen this feature. In fact, I'm looking at an email right now that clearly contains an address, and I see no link of any kind.

          Like when there's a time in the email, and Google offers to put it on my calendar?

          :shrug: Email and calendar appointments are routinely stored together, so that's not exactly a huge leap of innovation.

          - David Stein

          • Re:Silo? (Score:3, Informative)

            >I've been using Gmail for about two years, and I've never seen this feature. In
            >fact, I'm looking at an email right now that clearly contains an address, and I see
            >no link of any kind.

            And I'm looking an email right now that has two addresses in it, and GMail is offering to map them both (under "Would you like to ..."). The HTML for one of the links is copied below.

            <td class="cx"><img src="images/cob_map.gif"></td><td><div><a target="_blank" class="re" href="http:/
          • Ooh, forgot "Related Links" too.

            Here's Google's doc on these non-silo features.

            https://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?ctx= %67mail&hl=en&answer=39382 [google.com]

            Maybe you have that column ad-blocked out? The map links are pretty cool; you might want to adjust your ad-blocking.
      • Clearly, you haven't yet grokked this Google Sketchup thing.

        I've never been more excited about a computer program. 3D CAD with a state-of-the-art user interface? For FREE? Yeah, there are things it can't do, and the learning curve is non-trivial, but the capabilities it's going to give me (personally, this carbon unit) are astounding.

        Suffice it to say, I'm pretty amped about this program.

        I can't afford SolidWorks or CATIA, but I can afford this.
        • While it has a killer interface (or it may, I haven't tried it yet) it's nowhere near close to the functionality of either of those programs. And, neither is blender, which is at least also free (but from what I hear, has a suck interface.)
    • by aprilsound (412645) on Friday June 30, 2006 @10:27AM (#15636035) Homepage
      I completely agree. You always see the trolls say that Google should "focus on search", as though by throwing more people at search is going help things. Look how well that worked for Windows. MS got bigger, releases got slower. The fact is, you can onlty have so many people doing search.

      Any good businesman will tell you that failure is 95% of business. Most new buisinesses fail, most new products are not a roaring success. All Google needs is for one or two of its two dozen ventures to establish even a niche market (*cough* gmail *cough*) and it will make money hand over fist. Remember, Google is still the underdog in all of these new ventures, so almost any gains are a positive thing.
    • A worrisome problem: the stockholders' pressure on these companies keeps pushing on these companies to produce and show profit now. I applaud Microsoft, in one example, in their snubbing of shareholders by announcing huge investments in R&D, rather than upping their dividends. In the long run, companies that stay focused will be the winners, for themselves, for the consumers, and for the shareholders.

      This is a fundamental flaw in market economies, not in shareholders. Shareholders have a limited lifespa

      • [Short-term focus] is a fundamental flaw in market economies, not in shareholders.
        How do you build the argument that short term focus is even a flaw? Intuitively, I tend to believe it as well, but it's hard to measure. It will be interesting to see if privately-owned companies (which tend to face less short-term pressure) can really turn this into an advantage.
      • If what you are saying is true, then the most successful companies would be privately owned. This is not the case.
    • The problem with being a leader in the "internet search" market is that there's no such market, actually. Nobody pays to search the Internet. Much as you probably like Google, if they started requiring a paid-for account to use their search engine, you'd probably just say "fuck you very much" and go use Yahoo instead. Charging sites to be listed on your search engine would probably go even worse, and not leave you with much of a search engine if most sites refuse to be indexed.

      There is no _money_ in being t
      • What are you saying? You might as well say "there's NO market for broadcast television." Of course there is a market for search. It's just that search is paid for by ads.

        You're just making a petty semantic argument. When people say market, they just mean an area of competition. Just because the money comes in through ads (in common with other markets) is absolutely meaningless. Focusing on the mechanics of compensation over the facets of competition makes no sense. The bottom line is people need a search en

        • No, it's not just semantics, it's actually an important distinction for understanding what's really going on. So what I'm saying is:

          1. Focusing on where the money is actually makes one hell of a sense for a company.

          2. All those attempts at getting into other "markets" are a bit more related than it looks, because they're tied 1-to-1 to the same source of revenue. One ad served on Gmail or Orkut or whatever brings in exactly as much money as one ad served on their search engine. And they use the same keyword
    • In the long run, companies that stay focused will be the winners, for themselves, for the consumers, and for the shareholders (though, I still hold Microsoft in high suspicion for their motivation for pouring huge resources into R&D, aka... working on cutting off someone else's air supply.)

      Dude, you can't have it both ways. Every technology company intended to be successful in the long term must spend money on research, if for no other reason than to develop patents for cross-licensing :P

  • Mail (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ajs (35943)
    Everyone I know or meet in a business context these days has two addresses: work and gmail. Sometimes they have another (like my home servers), but everyone has those two.

    I haven't heard anyone use a Yahoo, MSN or Hotmail address in months.

    Not a leader?! Please.
    • by King_TJ (85913) on Friday June 30, 2006 @09:38AM (#15635712) Journal
      The thing with Yahoo email is, they partnered up with other big players, so they host more email than you might at first realize.

      EG. I've been a Southwestern Bell DSL Internet customer for years. At one point, SBC partnered up with Yahoo, and migrated email over to Yahoo's servers. I still got to keep my "@swbell.net" address, however. It just runs through Yahoo POP and SMTP servers instead of SBC's own mail server.

      Many other users of SBC/AT&T DSL services are doing similar things with addresses ending in "@sbcglobal.net".
    • I agree, but pundits like to point out that GMail's share is still small relatively to other services like Yahoo. What I'd really like to see is the ACTIVE account growth at GMail versus competitors. It does seem that everyone looking for a primary web mail account uses GMail-- but do spammers? Do people signing up for tourney brackets or stock discussions on Yahoo technically get an email account there? I've had my Yahoo email since 1998 and have never used it as a primary account in those 8 years.

      Peop

    • gmail makes you jump through hoops to sign up. AOL makes you jump through hoops to cancel. They could form a partnership. AOL could offer a service to make it easy to sign up for a gmail account. gmail could offer a service to make it easy to cancel your AOL account.
  • by IntelliAdmin (941633) * on Friday June 30, 2006 @09:24AM (#15635616) Homepage
    It has gotten to the point where they release new products so often that I can't even keep track. I think they also spend way too much time on ideas that are aimed to hurt Microsoft (Such as the online spreadsheet idea) - these things are cool, but will anyone really pay for them? I think google executives know that the money train will stop someday soon, since they are selling their shares like crazy.
    USB Drive disabler - works remotely [digg.com]
    • > I think they also spend way too much time on ideas that are aimed to hurt Microsoft (Such as the online spreadsheet idea) - these things are cool, but will anyone really pay for them?

      They don't have to make money, they just have to make sure that Microsoft isn't making money. This was the no. 1 reason behind StarOffice from Sun; kill the biggest MS cash-cow of them all - Office. With less profits from that direction, MS have to spend less to compete with Sun in Sun's core market. Same with Google, it's
  • Gmail, anyone? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by turthalion (891782) on Friday June 30, 2006 @09:27AM (#15635633) Homepage
    Google still hasn't produced a huge winner...

    I would argue that gmail is pretty successful. It's forced Yahoo, Hotmail to offer much larger mailboxes to keep their clients.

    Heck, even my local ISP, after 15 years of a 10MB mailbox (with a float to 15MB) suddenly offer 200MB on all 5 email addresses their service lets you use.

    In addition, every user of Hotmail or Yahoo that I've brought over to gmail hasn't looked back. They all love it.

    I call that a winner.

    • Re:Gmail, anyone? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Troy (3118) on Friday June 30, 2006 @09:57AM (#15635816)
      If I understand the article correctly, it is thinking solely in terms of revenue generated rather than popularity. For instance, Google Maps/Earth is wildly popular and there really aren't too many applications like it, but can you say that those products have made Google a substantial amount of cash? In comparison to their ad business, I don't think so.

      From a Wall Street point-of-view, this is troubling. You have a large business in a fast moving market hanging its entire hat on a single technology.
      • Although this makes me wonder why we haven't yet seen GMail appliances. If Google could supply, much like their search appliances, GMail appliances that you plug into your network, tell them the domains they're handling, point your DNS at them, and leave them alone, they could make a fortune.

        Sure, this is not easy... but I still think this is the best way for them to make money from GMail, and I think they can do it...
        • Or you could just have Google host your email domains and not worry about buying a device for your network.

          -matthew
          • Or you could just have Google host your email domains and not worry about buying a device for your network.

            I don't consider this an option. Personal email, okay, whatever. I'm not talking about anything important in it 99% of the time anyway. Work email? Hell no. That's your company's secrets. You want that onsite. Also, having the email server be local means that local email still works when the internet connection is down, and it's a whole hell of a lot faster to boot.

      • Re:Gmail, anyone? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rm69990 (885744)
        You'd never know, Google inserts ads into both Google Earth and Google Maps. You will see sponsored links while using the products. Google doesn't disclose how much of their ad dollars from their own web properties come from which products (ie. Groups, Web Search, Gmail, Maps, Earth, etc.)
    • I would argue that gmail is pretty successful. It's forced Yahoo, Hotmail to offer much larger mailboxes to keep their clients.

      From a business point of view it is a failure to introduce an innovation so simple to copy that your competitors catch up quickly. It would be a success if Yahoo and Hotmail were now in free-fall because they couldn't match it.

    • Not only that, but I now use google chat more than AIM, the previous de facto standard. Google isn't making a single big winner, but they're chipping away at every other company with a big online presense. Yahoo and Microsoft with search and mail. AOL with their chat program. Ebay yesterday with their checkout. Google is smart to diversify their products - you can beat one of them but not all of them. They're like a hydra.
    • True, to me GMail is their best product and I love it more than Google.com itself. But they also have the best map/directions site. The best image search. The most useful features into their search engine (do a search for "movie: movies" without the quotes... much more convenient than any other showtime listings).

      The one thing they make that I can't live without now though is Google Calendar. The ability to access it anywhere, and have alerts sent to my cellphone is just something I've come to rely upon
      • Almost forgot... Google Sketchup is a really easy to use program for simple 3D modeling. And Google Earth is just cool too. It would be even cooler if they combined Celestia [theopencd.org] features with Google Earth, so we could zoom by other planets as well.
    • I use yahoo. Did before. Do now.

      I started using gmail in the early days, and the UI was too sparse. They wanted to force me to search. I didn't want to search. Additionally, they made the compose button look different from the rest, making it difficult for me to find (call me retarded, I don't care).

      I went back to yahoo. I use my gmail account for almost nothing. I go there about once a month.

      I just wish I could get onto the Yahoo beta. Will they ever finish that?
  • Process ? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Its like the scene in UHF where a blind man trying to solve the Rubriks cube with the help of a seeing guy.

    "Is this it ?"
    "No!"

    "Is this it ?"
    "No!" ....
  • So what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Telastyn (206146) on Friday June 30, 2006 @09:28AM (#15635645)
    Do gmail, the calendar, local searching, satelite mapping, their ads and innumerable other good stuff need to be a market leader to be considered a success? With the hit or miss nature of pretty much every other single company in the world, isn't the fact that pretty much everything google puts out doesn't suck a sign that the process works well?
    • Re:So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Herkum01 (592704) on Friday June 30, 2006 @09:46AM (#15635755)

      In the seventies, there was a huge study in how to create a successful business. One of those areas they found as being important was "Market Leader". The reason, it was easier for the "Market Leader" to achieve "Economies of Scale"( ie. It is cheaper to produce 10,000 units instead of 5,000 units).

      Being a market leader was not the only variable in this study, just one of several. However, it appears "a little knowledge is dangerous" applies here. I doubt "Economies of Scale" (and thereforce "Market Leader") is as important to IT compared with manufacturing cars. They took one potential variable and applied it to Google without looking at the big picture of how it all works.

      • In the seventies, there was a huge study in how to create a successful business. One of those areas they found as being important was "Market Leader". The reason, it was easier for the "Market Leader" to achieve "Economies of Scale"( ie. It is cheaper to produce 10,000 units instead of 5,000 units).

        I'm not sure that's the case when it comes to google. It costs the same amount to produce software whether 1 user or 10,000 users are using it. It should cost approximately linearly more (in the case of googl

  • Google (Score:2, Insightful)

    by foo52 (980867)
    Whether or not Google is becoming more or less evil aside, they are growing too big too fast. Any company that tries to expand its market too quickly is in danger of callapsing under its own weight. Innovation is rare in todays society and I applaud it, but Google as a company should look inward and perfect its current product line before expanding into others. I for one would prefer a few great products than too many bad ones to name.
  • Gmail, the e-mail service that was lauded at its 2004 launch for offering 500 times as much storage space as some rivals (they quickly closed the gap), today is the system of choice for only about one-quarter the number of people who use MSN and Yahoo e-mail.

    So in an article about the success of Google products, the only way they gauge the success of Gmail is if someone also maintains an account with a competing service? What about Gmail users who use it exclusively (like me)?
    • by MrSquirrel (976630) on Friday June 30, 2006 @09:44AM (#15635747)
      I call FUD! The "statistics" they use are baloney. Google has one-quarter the number of people that MSN and Yahoo do? ...maybe one quarter the addresses, but I disagree on the "people" part -- why, I myself have 4 Yahoo email accounts (and just one gmail account) so if everyone was like me than an equal amount of people use gmail and Yahoo. I realize not everyone is like me (oh, trust me, I definitely realize this), but I still have a hard time accepting their "statistics" that gmail has 1/4 the users of hotmail and yahoo mail. Hotmail and Yahoomail have been around for over 12 years (I think I got my first yahoomail account in 95), gmail has been around for 2 (a lot of that time it was locked up and you could only get in through invites). How many of those hotmail and yahoomail accounts are unused? If these questions were answered and backed up with numbers then maybe I would believe the article... until then, I repeat my original statement: FUD!!!
      • The whole "by invite only" thing was a joke really, when you consider how easy it was to get an invite. People were giving them out on various message boards, and even here via /. comments at one point. Eventually those new accounts got invites, and suddenly everyone had a Gmail account.

        But even assuming the stats were correct, it's silly to assume the measurement of success only includes Gmail users already using other competitors' products. There's plenty of people who use it and don't fall into that c
        • "The whole "by invite only" thing was a joke really, when you consider how easy it was to get an invite."

          It was a clever viral marketing gimmick. All those 'invites in sigs' things you mentioned got people asking "What is GMail?" At least, that's how I ended up using it. Otherwise I would have said "pftbptbptbpt another web mail."
        • But even assuming the stats were correct, it's silly to assume the measurement of success only includes Gmail users already using other competitors' products. There's plenty of people who use it and don't fall into that category.

          Let me start be saying that I know that the plural of anecdote is not "data".

          But, pretty much everyone I know on gmail has accounts on other services that they no longer use. Goes for me too; I have yahoo and hotmail. I don't use 'em, except when I need to deal with microsoft

      • Other thing to consider is that for a long time you needed to get a Hotmail account to use MSN Messenger. They lifted that restriction a few years ago but to this day I have a Hotmail account I never use, simply to sign into MSN Messenger with.

        That said a metric ton of non-geeks, especially teenagers, use Hotmail because it's what they know. So I can quite believe that Hotmail still beats the snot out of their competitors through inertia alone. This is especially true as you still need invites for GMail a

      • Well, if the accounts are unused, Hotmail would delete them after 30 days and Yahoo! would delete them after 120, so I fail to see how accounts opened 10 years ago and then abandoned would skew the results at all. Please do explain.

        If you want to look at it that way, people have abandoned gmail accounts (including 2 people I myself have invited), yet those accounts remain active on Google's servers for NINE months, as opposed to four and one for Yahoo and MSN respectively. I also have 2 gmail accounts (one
    • I have a Yahoo account and at least one Hotmail account that were made before my migration to GMail. According to TFA, only 25% of me uses GMail, even though I almost never log in to the other accounts.
    • is the system of choice for only about one-quarter the number of people who use MSN and Yahoo e-mail.

      So in an article about the success of Google products, the only way they gauge the success of Gmail is if someone also maintains an account with a competing service? What about Gmail users who use it exclusively (like me)?

      I can see how you could read it that way, but I don't think thats the way it is meant. They are trying to say Google only has about 1/4 the total users of MSN or Yahoo. If you have
  • Out of many, one (Score:5, Interesting)

    by andrewman327 (635952) on Friday June 30, 2006 @09:32AM (#15635674) Homepage Journal
    "Google has yet to establish a single market leader outside its core search business, where it continues to chew up Microsoft and Yahoo."


    Google does not need that one killer app that will destroy the status quo. I find myself using Google products for quite a few things. They have a knack for taking something that everyone already uses and improving it enough to make the transition worthwhile. The author might deride GMail for not being a new invention, but at the time of its release (and I would argue even now) it offered the most features and free storage. Instead of e-mail papers back and forth, I have been using Writely [writely.com] for months. Again, nothing too groundbreaking, but it just plan works and saves me some aggravation.

    My point is that Google provides resources that we all actually use, not some next big thing that will change the paradigm for good.

    • Am I the only one here who had never heard of Writely until today?

      I guess this proves the point that TFA makes about Google not advertising its products very well.
    • My point is that Google provides resources that we all actually use, not some next big thing that will change the paradigm for good.

      And that's exactly the point of TFA - 'we all' are not actually using Google's resources. In every category, except search and maps, it trails badly. (Maps merely trails.) The geek community is deeply in love with Google, but the geek community is only a small fraction of the total internet user community - and the numbers show it, regardless of the anecdotal evidence pre

  • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Friday June 30, 2006 @09:33AM (#15635683) Homepage Journal
    1. Buy struggling company.
    2. Rebrand their product.
    3. Make free version and "professional" version.
    4. Add web stuff, anything to tie it to Google servers, typically search or collaboration features.
    5. Put it into "Beta".
    6. ???
    7. Profit!
  • by lbmouse (473316) on Friday June 30, 2006 @09:35AM (#15635689) Homepage
    "...Google has yet to establish a single market leader outside its core search business, where it continues to chew up Microsoft and Yahoo."

    Is it me or has anyone else noticed the decline in quality search results from Google? Maybe this flurry of product launches continues to chew up its core search business. I'm not a big fan of the "throw-shit-on-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks" business model. Focusing on quality over quantity seems less evil.
    • Oh god, this "evil" crap again. Get a life, seriously.

      Letting a product stagnate could be called shoddy business practises, it could be called not caring about your customers, it could be called a lot of things. But really, when a company neglects their product, evil isn't the thing that pops into my head. When I think of evil, I think of pedophiles raping little children, different religions burning each other alive, people being tortured, etc.

      Google is not evil, they're a freakin' business trying to diver
  • by jbellis (142590) <jonathan AT carnageblender DOT com> on Friday June 30, 2006 @09:37AM (#15635700) Homepage

      Case in point: Google Maps, which trails only MapQuest in mapping-site traffic thanks to such innovations as aerial views and "click-and-drag" maps to make navigation easier. The product has become so popular that other outfits build new businesses or services around it, creating "mash-ups" that show things like real-estate listings or crime statistics on top of Google's maps. And four-year-old Google News offers top stories in 40 different countries and languages. That has spurred a jump of over 600% in international usage in the past year, making it the second-most-trafficked news aggregation site.


    A strong #2 doesn't sound like miserable failure to me.

    --
    Carnage Blender [carnageblender.com]: Meet interesting people. Kill them.
  • by kungfuSiR (753429) on Friday June 30, 2006 @09:41AM (#15635728) Homepage
    I think the author of this article is far too focused on the idea that Google should be trying to expand its core business, when I believe that Google is focused on finding new places for its core business to operate. Most of the "new" services Google is offering are nothing more then ways to extend the reach of their core business. Take for example Gmail, an amazing free mail service that has allowed Google another outlet for its advertisers to place ads. Through the beta we have seen more advertising, and better ad targeting due to information being collected about you through Gmail. Another example of this strategy is Google Video which is now placing targeted advertising in videos in order to provide their advertisers with yet another venue to attract consumers. To me it just seems that Google has been looking for ways to increase how much money it can make from its core business, which of course is advertising. These "new" services that Google releases, in my opinion, are just extensions of this core business model. So in the end isn't Google doing a great job?
  • by webword (82711) on Friday June 30, 2006 @09:42AM (#15635733) Homepage
    3M has been doing something similar forever. [manufacturingnews.com] (More here too... [pdma.org])

    Is Google doing this as managed innovation or is Google throwing "it" against the wall to see what sticks?
  • by billtom (126004) on Friday June 30, 2006 @09:44AM (#15635745)
    Of course, it's nice to get all the free stuff, but there are times that I wish that I could pay Google directly for some of their products. Why? Because I want to clearly signal to them that I want them to keep the product around and keep working on it. When the means for the consumer to signal the producer is absent (for example, in Picasa) or indirect (for example, in gmail), there's a larger risk that the producer will discontinue the product (or stop active development of it).

    For example, I use gmail all the time. But I have never, not once ever, clicked on an ad in gmail. So from my input, a bean-counter at gmail could conclude that I don't care about gmail.

    Sure, I could click on ads from time to time even though I have no interest in the products in the ads, but there are times that I wish I could just give Google a few bucks a year to give them a direct incentive to keep gmail going.
    • By using gmail, you are signaling to Google that you want to keep using it. You don't need to click on their ads to provide value to them. In fact, the direct beneficiary of the click is probably not even Google, but the company advertising. The bean-counters at Google aren't counting ad revenue. They are counting how often you email whom, what your most common email topics are, and who you email what to whom. That is the value you are providing to them.

      If you want to give a direct incentive to Google, star
      • I don't understand your argument. Here's the conversation I could see happening at google:

        Google Bean-counter: People aren't clicking on ads in gmail. So advertisers don't want to advertise there. So we're not making any money with gmail.

        Google Visionary: But gmail is wildly popular and the halo effect to the company is worth millions!

        BC: It's all very well to talk intangibles, but the bottom line for gmail is in the red. We're a public company and we can't pursue "feel-good" money-losing projects forever.

        G
        • His arguement is that Google is using Gmail to gather info on their users for advertising purposes. So if you're signed into Google while using their search engine, they can use your search query, search history, gmail records, calendar records, etc to more precisely target ads to you. I'm not sure how you missed that, he said it pretty clearly.
  • No pics in the article, but Marissa Meyer is pretty hot, in case you didn't know.

    pic 1 [google.com]
    pic 2 [mediajunk.com]
  • by ztirffritz (754606) on Friday June 30, 2006 @09:49AM (#15635780)
    Google does not need to be market leader in any particular fields. They just need to be good enough. Their business is presenting advertising that is targeted to an audience. Whatever they can do that keeps your eyes focused on their ads is a success. MS Maps may be a better product than Google Maps, but if I can click on a on a google search result and from that one click I'm able to find the vendor, call them, schedule an appointment and put it on my calendar, tranfer funds to them, and record the transaction on a spreadsheet I'd say Google just kicked the snot out of any of their competitors...they just managed to get me to look at about 10 times more ads than their competitors, and the ads are better targeted as well because they now know that I'm willing to spend money on product x and live near location z. This information only further refines their marketing tools.
    • Google does not need to be market leader in any particular fields. They just need to be good enough. Their business is presenting advertising that is targeted to an audience. Whatever they can do that keeps your eyes focused on their ads is a success.

      That's one of the points of TFA - their potential number of eyes [attracted to Google's secondary offerings] is less than that of their competitors. Failing to grow that number or failing to increase the share is not a sucess. Failing to capture a signific

  • Google is fine (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bberens (965711) on Friday June 30, 2006 @09:52AM (#15635798)
    I think the author of that article, and many of the /. posters are missing the point. Advertising is a numbers game. Google doesn't need 50%+1 market share on their calendar app in order for it to be a success. What they need is page loads. Every time a user reads an e-mail, Google makes money. Every time a user gets driving directions from Google maps, Google makes money. Google doesn't need a killer anything app. They need tons and tons of traffic. The best way of doing that is to make as many good solid apps as they can now while their wallets are still fat from their IPO. Of COURSE their stock is over priced right now. It's going to go down. How much? Who knows. This is not a 'throw ideas at the wall and see what sticks' market strategy. This is a 'do every thing we can to increase page loads' strategy. It's working, and it's going to keep working.
    • On a CPC model, how exactly is Google making money from page loads? You do realize that people actually have to CLICK Google's ads for them to even make a dime, right?

      Driving directions rarely show ads on Google Maps, so they aren't making a dime. Hell, a lot of Google's services LOSE money, such as Google News, which doesn't show any advertising whatsoever.
  • Product Updates? (Score:3, Informative)

    by why-lurk (252433) on Friday June 30, 2006 @10:17AM (#15635970)
    My main complaint about Google's product releases is not their scattershot approach -- I'm happy to see them try to find ways to improve existing product niches.

    But they rarely seem to update their online products:
      * Gmail, despite its strong launch and obvious success, has seen little development since. By now, we would expect to see much stronger import/export features, more filtering and junk mail controls...
      * Google Video was pretty weak at launch, and amazingly, hasn't improved much since. Details on the videos shown is weak, and 3rd-party review links, imdb links, etc. are nonexistent. Methods for transferring and showing the video on portable devices and Tivo are... completely absent.
      * Froogle, News, Maps, and more have stagnated since their beta launch (except that Google's purchase of new imagery for Earth has benefited Maps), despite much improvement from the competition (seen Yahoo Maps lately?).

    In fact, pretty much the only products they regularly update are the native apps they purchased from startups, like Earth, Picasa, and Sketchup. These appear to have kept their development teams from pre-acquisition days, and continue to make small but regular improvements.

    It's amazing to me that a company with as many employees as Google can make so many online services appear to be the work of one or two developers in their spare time -- strong on concept, but weak on follow-through.

        --kirby
    • I'm not sure that's true, though I've only been using these services for a short while.

      GMail has gained quite a few features, including web based chat and integration with the calendar service. They have a "new features" link that appears occasionally. And of course space available constantly increases, which you could count as a feature.

      Google Video has gained a ton since its launch as a basic Flash frontend to crawled videos. They got video categories, labelling, ratings, pay-for videos, improved form

    • Ummm, Gmail has seen constant updates since its first release.

      A list of things they have added since, off the top of my head:

      Rich text editing
      Calendar Integration
      Gmail Photos
      Google Talk integration into Gmail
      POP3 Access
      Multiple from: email addresses
      Web clips
      Almost tripled storage from original amount
      Expanded the amount of data that can be inputted in the contact list

      Their feature list has surpassed the features of Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail, while still being in beta and being on the market for a small fractio
  • Despite lots of fanfare, a close look at the products reveals that Google still hasn't produced a huge winner...Google has yet to establish a single market leader outside its core search business.

    Is it possible that Google's goal with all of these products is merely to hold it's lead in the search business? Instead of paying a million dollars for a TV ad campaign, they spend a million dollars developing a nifty useful tool. It hits their target market better, and provides positive benefit to their users

  • by LordZardoz (155141) on Friday June 30, 2006 @10:29AM (#15636044)
    Bean was smarter than Ender (smart to an unholy / scary degree if you read the Bean quartet). However, in battle school, Beans record as a team leader was 0 - 10 compared to Enders perfect record.

    Bean's failure rate was so high because he was trying to find out what strategies worked and which ones did not, and he did so by examining strategies that no one in thier right mind would try, just to see why they failed, and what things about them potentially worked. He did this because he did not care about the win / loss record, and he was using the school environment to find out what worked and what didn't.

    And when he got out of the battle school, he never failed once.

    Getting back to Google, they are trying products that may or may not work. Not everything needs to be a screaming huge success, and if gmail turned into a huge disaster, its not like it would invalidate their business model for Google Search.

    END COMMUNICATION
  • I think Gmail has done a pretty good job of establishing itself outside the search realm.
  • As I understand it, Google is employing the free-beta now, paid-service later strategy for their new products. They're entering into markets with established competitors and what better way to gain market share than to offer their products free of charge? If you want people to migrate their desktop environment onto the web via email & appointment schedules (MS Outlook -> Google Calendar/Gmail) and office tools (MS Excel/Word -> Google Spreadsheets/Notes) in innovative ways, you sure aren't going
  • What Google is doing IMO is brilliant, by allowing employees to have pet projects and explore and push the boundaries using their expertise, Google is tapping directly into the "garage developer/inventor" projects of employees that might otherwise be developed outside of Google.

    It's cost effective in many ways, employees may tend to stay on target for their standard job and/or projects (that might otherwise be a bit dull) because they CAN flex their muscles and try new things. Google gets R&D on a b
  • by alucinor (849600) on Friday June 30, 2006 @11:12AM (#15636385) Journal

    Google has barely started. They're simply positioning their pieces right now. Their strategy is obviously a sneaky one: tiptoe up behind your opponents without drawing too much attention to yourself by openly beta-testing a variety of services, and then at the perfect moment, deliver the killing blow with the "kernel" of your plan that suddenly brings all these disparate services together into a nuke of integration. That kernel, for them, of course, is search.

    What is search? It can be a lot of things, but in its finest form, it resembles what is popularly termed "AI". Can you imagine what Google could achieve by using search to suddenly unify all of its services? You get an email in Gmail about a picnic on the 23rd, and it's hyperlinked to a command that will put it in your Google Calendar. That's a simple scenario. Few seem to imagine search as an integration platform, like the GUI, but it is; it's not just for finding things.

    I imagine the future of search to be a lot like how the ever-present computer voice in Star Trek could do almost anything for you. When computers are this sophisticated, what's the point of most GUIs? Just tell your computer what you want. GUIs can then be minimal and non-intrusive.

    Now, the biggest complaint I hear about Google's services is that they have to be accessed online via a browser. Well, did you know that Firefox 3 is going to support the ability to run web applications offline [mozilla.org]?

    -- random_blankspace attica ya-know-hoo dottius commius

    • "What is search? It can be a lot of things, but in its finest form, it resembles what is popularly termed "AI". Can you imagine what Google could achieve by using search to suddenly unify all of its services? You get an email in Gmail about a picnic on the 23rd, and it's hyperlinked to a command that will put it in your Google Calendar. That's a simple scenario. Few seem to imagine search as an integration platform, like the GUI, but it is; it's not just for finding things." That's not a scenario....Gmail
  • Google's business methodology might not be the strongest, but it's because they can afford to be. I get the impression that they are just big kids with a huge monetary playground. They love tinkering and they love catering to other tinkerers.

    I adore many of Google's new services - especially because I don't have to pay for them. I use Suggest, Gmail, Calendar, Video, Talk (with VOIP), and Maps all the time, and I occasionally find uses for Earth, Sets, and Froogle. Most of all, I love playing with al
  • More of the same (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Foobartacus (934795)
    Google is doing the same thing that most companies (or individuals) do when they get a lot of money for doing one thing well: they try a million other things. Like the moviestar who decides to make an album or write a children's book, the Google brain has decided that since it solved the search problem it can solve most other problems--and better than their competition.

    The good news is that the farm for ideas internally rather than have ideas come from the top down. But you don't have to be smart to have
  • Releasing too early (Score:3, Interesting)

    by p3d0 (42270) on Friday June 30, 2006 @02:18PM (#15637958)
    Google's philosophy of launching "early and often" frequently leads to products that start out on a par, at best, with those of competitors, giving Internet users little reason to change their surfing habits.

    This hits the nail on the head. I checked out Google Finance pretty early and it wasn't as good as Yahoo so I stayed with Yahoo. (For instance, it had no stocks from the Toronto exchange.) I just checked it again today because of this article, and it has improved substantially. (The search box is especially impressive.)

    I'm switching right now, but if this article hadn't appeared, I wouldn't.

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