Google -love is getting out of hand. In fact, Google is getting out of hand.
After I wrote about the launch of Google Spreadsheets this morning, one commenter said “Its very nice and sleak. Will be very useful for keeping track of money etc”, as if this was the first spreadsheet he’d ever seen. Some of the other comments were also overly effusive. Thankfully, another commenter noted that, in fact, the product isn’t exactly new: “spreadsheets have been around about as long as computers”. I agree – while Google released a very nice Ajax spreadsheet today, they didn’t exactly change the world.
Now we are ending the day with a post by Philipp Lenssen at Google Blogoscoped – one of his readers noticed that Picasa, which Google acquired in mid-2004, will soon be adding albums (yes, albums) to their suite of photo products. Philipp describes Picasa thusly: “Picasa is Google’s desktop photo management software – something like Yahoo’s Flickr, except it’s not on the web.” Yeah, it’s just like Flickr, except without tagging, sharing, commenting and, of course, it isn’t a web service.
Ryan at Cybernet is impressed, saying “[Google has] so many services that they could integrate with a photo service…so that people can create their own sites and add their photo albums. Oh the possibilities!” (Note: I like and read both of these blogs, so I’m just picking on the posts, not the blogs in general).
What drives this kind of blind enthusiasm? When is the last time Google released a product that really changed our lives? For me, it was (and is) their core search engine. I grant that Google Maps pushed the envelope and forced the other big Internet guys to improve their own offerings (but today Microsoft and Yahoo are both significantly better than Google). And I do appreciate the POP access to Gmail (this was the one thing that converted me from hotmail for personal email). Everything since has been, well, somewhat underwhelming.
Now, if Google actually announces their intention to eat Microsoft’s lunch by trying to kill their Office revenue with a full online office suite, that would be interesting. Or if they said they wanted to eat into Flickr’s growing market share by competing more aggresively in online photos, I’d have some respect for them. At least we’d have something to talk about besides online photo albums and all this blathering on about how important sharing is. This isn’t about corporate secrecy – we all know that Google is trying to hit Microsoft where it hurts. It’s about deniability if things don’t work out as planned. One thing Google hates more than anything is to look stupid. They are afraid to fail.
Google needs to embrace the possibility of failure. They need to stop making all of the same mistakes Microsoft made. They need to build aggressive and visionary products, kill stuff that doesn’t work, muzzle their out-of-control communications team and start telling us what Google 2.0 is going to be.