Wow ain’t that a controversial title, and perhaps a tad too much to blame it all on one person? But then, as the saying probably goes, it’s always the CEO’s fault isn’t it? At some point between the janitor and CEO, the reason stops mattering. or something.
What I’m about to say probably is more of a whole-google issue, or a company culture issue, and could just as well more be inherited from the original founders and leadership teams of Larry Page, Sergy Brin, Eric Schmidt and the top management, but now that Sundar is (kinda) the CEO of Google, albeit with Alphabet looming above him, he has kinda inherited the responsibility, power, and paycheck.
So what’s the problem with Google?
The symptom is that Google has lots of weird products, some successful, some unsuccessful, many of them poorly supported, not completed, and never seems to really dominate the product category despite being the big gorilla in the room and full of money and manpower resources. This has led to many people being frustrated and jaded about using Google products and apps, instead switching to other providers. It is the power and goodwill of Google’s branding that people even care and continue to give them a huge benefit of doubt.
Example: google+ closed down, google reader closed down, Allo, Hangout chat closed down, Google Trips app closed down, and so many more.
Lots of people have also remarked that the only really successful product that has made money is Google Search, while everything else were frills and hobbies that keep users in the Google ecosystem. Even Android and Pixel doesn’t make appreciable amount of money for them.
While we could go into the design behaviour and competitive landscape of each product and design flaws etc, it doesn’t really matter. The only reason that so many products can fail is that the culture and company structure is not appropriate.
Many have often said that internally Google engineers can only be promoted or rewarded when they demonstrate the launch of a new product or feature. Preferably product. This leads to older projects and products being abandoned. Products require continuous refinement, perfecting, improving, integration and polish in order to keep on being better. Google’s products are pretty good, but far from perfect. It is so obviously short, and so obvious what the next step is, and yet they don’t take it. Many easy products that just needs to be that bit better, where there are already lots of users, users who are willing to pay for it, but Google is not interested in the income, or the liability of supporting it, so they abandon it, close it down.
If the culture remains this way, Google isn’t going to advance. Other companies are just going to chip away at each segment one by one. We the users are forced to spread to other apps, in a fragmented way. Ouch.
If Google doesn’t recognise this as an issue, and so far I’ve not seen or heard any rumour of this indication, then it’s quite sad.
Free products and unimportant income streams just wouldn’t matter to a company, they wouldn’t care about you, and you wouldn’t get the long term dedicated support, growth and improvement that a competitive product that needs to keep their users happy and engaged.
eg. companies are willing to pay for Slack instead of free alternatives, pay for Zoom, pay for so many other alternatives which aren’t technically so impossible to create.
Microsoft turned their culture and image around drastically, can Google do the same with a new CEO and new culture change?