But mom, Google can’t moonwalk well!
Anil finishes off a good summary on Google from the past from different writers with the obligatory “how Google doesn’t dominate many areas it enters” article from BusinessWeek. I find the observation quite irritating at the best. There is no company, other than monopolies probably in communist China, that has a product line that is successful across the board. There will always be a couple of duds, some marginal successes and a handful of really successful products, if you are lucky, in most cases.
The Ipod makes the day for Apple, the success of which is not matched by its line up for personal computers. The Office suite and other enterprise-oriented applications rake in the big dollars for Microsoft, but being a failure at search does not make them a dud. Google is no different and for every Orkut that you can find on Google, there will be duds from other companies, like the incredibly dead Crossfader from Microsoft, which was launched with a great deal of fanfare.
The BusinessWeek article also covers numbers in terms of “system of choice” for email services. If you are going to look at numbers in terms of registered users, Hotmail and Yahoo! will obscure any competitor, because of them having been around for years now. But, if you were to look at actual usage, I guess the story would be different. Given a choice, what would you go for – a quality user base or something that looks good just in terms of sheer bulk? I don’t think Google is looking for that bulk. It is looking for a possibly smaller, yet, bona fide and real user base to whom they can serve their contextual ads. And from that point of view you have to agree that they are doing pretty well.
There is also a misconception that doing so many products somehow ‘hurts’ Google. I don’t think so. Their computing environment is a huge general purpose monster (other than Orkut and Blogger), which will happily munch away at data that’s thrown at it in a format that it would understand. Most of the new products (Google News, Orkut etc) were not initially done by 200 member development teams. It costs them practically nothing, over and above what it already costs them to run their main line of business, to develop and deploy these services. While, for someone like Microsoft, it involves a considerable amount of rethink, re-investment and course correction (case in point being the beyond comprehension Live line up of products).
What these little products do for Google is to create diversions that keeps its competitors busy and the analysts chatty and pushing the share price even higher, while the company can happily keep working on its search and ad delivery business. Now, with gains like that, who’d not want to do what Google is doing?