Networking

Crazy Little Thing called (Google) Love

People are lapping it up.

Google launched Spreadsheet on Tuesday and it was promptly covered. There’s a rumour about Picasa coming as a Web-based version soon. Anything Google releases is a matter of hot contention. It is not a question to ponder whether the interest in the product will be sustained or will die off the very next day itself. As long as it exists in the minds of the people, it will always bring in the hits.

You may call me a Google-basher, if you wish, but it still baffles me why Google should churn out these services at such a high rate. There are so many better things to do! Like, for example, they could actually be fine tuning their Search algorithm or re-inventing it.

Maybe they are already doing it and these things are simply to throw the hounds off the scent. Or maybe, they don’t have a clue where they should be headed now. Whichever it is, the big picture is really hard to see right now.

In the last year, since the advent of Gmail, AJAX and Web 2.0, Google has been building up a veritable repository of Apps, sorry, FREE apps for the *public*. What they did not create, they bought. And what they could not buy, they bought the competition and gave it away for free.

Again, the concept of Contextual Text-Ads worked fine, but then other players have now entered the Market and they are slowly eating up into the marketshare. Not that it is going to affect Google’s ‘economy’ much, but yet, it is something Google cannot ignore for long.

Let’s take a look at the facts:

  1. Google has built up a large user-base based on one single product – Search.
  2. Google has introduced various offerings into the Webosphere, definitely keeping up with the trends. Yet, there has been no visible innovation seen in the recent times.
  3. Every new Google product or offering has one result assured – Love it or hate it, you can’t ignore it.
  4. And lastly, each of the newer Google products is *loosely* integrated with the other ones.

Take a look at the last one again. There are no links from any of the Google apps to the others, save for the standard footer (which is ignored most of the time). Except for a few isolated examples (Maps and Calendar in Gmail) there have been very few instances of product integration. Why hasn’t Google integrated attachments with Writely and Google Video? Or with Google Base for that matter? Surely, it is not unimaginable? Why are they ignoring/neglecting/forgetting/overlooking/whatever such simple points? Or are they doing it deliberately?

One fine day, if they choose to bring all services (the old ones, the current and the new ones) under one umbrella, then this is what your typical day might look like:

7 AM. Wake up. Ready yourself for your daily work. Breakfast.
8 AM. Check Google Mail. Add client appointment(s) directly into Google Calendar. Check Google Traffic* for driving conditions and consult Google Maps for best route. Drive to Work.
9 AM. Reach Work. Open Gtalk. Your Calendar settings have been imported and all your appointments have been sent automatic reminder mails/notices about your meetings. Check your Gmail. Collaborate on Software Requirement Specifications and make changes with your colleague in Australia and save it immediately.
10 AM. Create a presentation for your Client meet using GPres* along with the same colleague in Australia. Simultaneously tabulate all the requisite data, draw up some quick formulae with the help of your colleague in Europe. Voila! Google Spreadsheet is ready with a cost estimate instantly!
11 PM. Client is online. (Need we mention free WiFi, here?) Hold a webmeeting with your client using Gtalk and conduct a video conference simultaneously. Close the deal and send a link to the already drawn up MoU and NDA along with the cost estimate that you just ruffled up with your colleague in Australia
1 PM. Open Google Search. Look for birthday Gifts for kids under ten years with a special interest in Pokemon. Find appropriate Gift. Pay using GMoney* and get it delivered instantly to your Office.
2 PM. Lunch Break
3 PM. Repeat steps 3 to 5
6 PM. Check your Gmail. Check for Google Calendar reminders/notices. Check Google Traffic* and Google Maps again. Drive home.

(*Coming Soon to a Browser near you. Please submit your eMail address for a special beta preview invite.)

The keen reader may observe that I have touched upon barely a few of the current offerings of Google. I have merely implied the potential what Google could capture with its current offerings. Whay are they holding back then? Is it to be a surprise attack, a Blitz-Krieg of some kind? If suddenly Google chooses to generate revenue out of all the (currently) free services

Google is building isolated chunk of applications. For us, they seem like unseemly, strange shapes. But they might well turn out to be smaller pieces of a mastermind Jigsaw puzzle. Google could well be on its way to building the only competition to, and yet not compete against Micro$oft.

Confused? Picture this: The Google WebOS and the Google Office.

The world is moving towards the virtual. Google might well stand to gain from this movement. At the same time as Google builds a monopoly on the Web, Microsoft keeps its monopoly on the Desktop. This might sound like a random conspiracy theory, but it is supported by hard facts.

Note that Google has not pushed any independent standards with any of its Applications. Writely supports .doc format as well as other formats. Spreadsheet claims “Familiar desktop feel” and that you can “Upload spreadsheets or worksheets from CSV or XLS format – all your formulas and formatting will come across intact.”

Wouldn’t a company seeking to remove M$ out of the competition promote other standards so that they could force the users out of the habit?

Consider this: Of late, there have not been any major innovations and releases in Google desktop paraphernelia. Those that are released have a distinct web connotation, for instance, GDS 4. In the other corner. M$ seems to have slowed down its work on the web front. Ray Ozzie and his Live clipboard are being handled by tech enthusiasts, who realize the implications of the tool. But the man himself, (Ray) seems to have faded somewhere into the horizon. The first impression of this is each of them is sticking to known battlegrounds.

And if they continue to do so, is it not a precursor of the things to follow? Is it really a random conspiracy theory, then?

Technorati Tags: google, microsoft, conjecture, theory

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Author: Chris Berry

22 thoughts on “Crazy Little Thing called (Google) Love

  1. .. it’s biggest USP is it’s clean and uncluttered interface. Ofcourse, once Google introduces more features into the Web based Picasa. It would be interesting to see what happens…

  2. I think Googles aim with Picassa does have flickr factored in the plans. Their new picassa web service isn’t a patch on flickr yet but it has potential.

  3. @shrikant: I don’t think Picassa wants to take on Flickr. Picassa is for a different crowd and purposes. You still need the desktop. That’s where Google wants to come in.

  4. These are the ones I am using actively for that purpose or which integrate into search results and give extra results:

    – Aggregate Yahoo! & Google 0.16: http://www.google.com/search?q=Firefox%20Aggregate%20Yahoo%21%20%26%20Google
    – Bumble Search 1.02: http://www.bumblesearch.com
    – ConQuery 1.6.4: http://conquery.mozdev.org/
    – Googlepedia 0.3.2: http://www.amusd.com/
    – SEO For Firefox 1.5.0.8b: http://tools.seobook.com/firefox/seo-for-firefox.html
    – termBlaster (Firefox edition) 1.3.6: http://termblaster.forizon.com/mozilla

    Deactivated:

    – Hyperwords(tm) 1.3.3: http://www.hyperwords.net
    – Ponsbar 0.6.2005.11: http://ponsbar.mozdev.org/
    – SearchStatus 1.16: http://www.quirk.biz/searchstatus/
    – SEO Links 1.0: http://www.webmasterbrain.com/

    Comments and additions welcome 🙂

  5. @Sergio:
    Yeah, I checked PicasaWeb out. Pretty nifty application. But can it take on Flickr and PhotoBucket? My answer would be:

    Well, it’s getting there. If you add to it, Google’s great reputation for speed, you have an amazing dark-horse.

    @Markus:
    Please name and link a few of them here, if you can. I have been looking for something like that. I don’t want to use DogPile or Yahoogle.

    Regards,
    Shri.

  6. Google search is great because of all the nice little extensions you get for Firefox to get more results from other sources

    My Google SERPs are cluttered with about four or five injections from these little tools which link to everything but not Google 🙂

  7. I agree that the analogy with Sony and the Cornflakes was far-fetched, but you must know that it was only a hyperbole… I apologise if you took it seriously.

    The point that I am trying to make is that everything they have come up with is only “tangentially related” Why? Is it chance? Is it manoeuvred? Is it Random? How come everytime there’s an innovative idea on the web, there’s a Google parallel “released” in a few months?

    Yes, the Integration theory is a theory, a conjecture. I also agree that they haven’t announced anything of that sort. But who’s to say they won’t? If you recall they said they had no intention to take over Orkut, yet they did…

    Regards,
    Shri

  8. Shrikant Joshi – the analogy you used with Sony and cereal is absurd and irrelevant. Every lab experiment Google has done has been at least tangentially related. Why would they want to get into something unrelated? What benefit would that serve? And again you are making the flawed assumption that they do intend to integrate everything they’re experimenting on which isn’t what they are saying, nor what is actually happening.

    Keep in mind that most of these lab experiments are coming from employee’s 20% time.

    What should they being doing in the lab, anyway?

  9. Thanx for the enthusiastic response, guys. Haven’t been keeping well of late. Hence, the delay in replying…

    @Raj:
    Scared? of what?

    @shotoshi:
    Interesting line of thought, but just be careful of what you get into. With the kind of lawyers that GOOG has, you never know, what kind of s**t you can get into

    @Markus:
    Exactly. Any opinion, why? Complacency?

    @Nick:
    Thanx. Checked those out. In fact, the topic had been at the forefront of my mind for quite some time.

    And then I read Om’s post. And it started to pour out…

    @shotoshi:
    Be grateful that they allow you to change the colours at least. Or they would set lawyers upon you everytime you changed so much as an anchor tag in your post…

    @JimK:
    I have mentioned in the post that these three apps are tightly integrated. But why not the others?

    And as far as being evil goes, it doesn’t matter whrether you are quietly evil or shout it out loud until you’re hoarse. What matters to me is that you (GOOG) are being evil. Period.

    Interesting point about the Right-leaning Blogs… An effect of their Chinese policy, eh?

    @Ahmed:
    Guilty as charged.

    I use GOOG for my searches most of the time. But for advanced, intricate searches I prefer vivisimo or such clustering tools.
    Have also given Yahoo! Quotient a try and it looks promising…

    @Chris:
    Hmmm, must try the Ask engine… Is the butler really that good?

    @JimK:
    Yeah, me too… Except that it is down half the time when I try to access it. Tells me it is overloaded with searches…

    @DaveM:
    And make GOOG a portal? No way, they are waiting for the right opportunity to do that.
    Oh and by the way, you CAN access most of the GOOG services with one single GOOG sign-on.

    @TDavid:
    Yeah, but what if Sony suddenly stopped producing Electronics and started dabbling in Corn Flakes? Would Kellog sit up and take notice? How would they integrate this “new offering” with their current procust?
    Like a box of Corn-flakes free with every handycam? Hmm, that sounds promising…

  10. I can see where you are coming from as far as fixing what they already have but as a GOOG investor I also think Google can and should continue to experiment on a wide variety of products/services. The bigger and perhaps more important quesion is why can’t they do both?

    The mistake, I think, would be assuming that every one of these products/services is going to be a core offering. That might be the goal of the employees behind the product/service, but I doubt Google expects that to happen. Google clearly states that isn’t a realistic expectation with all their Labs offerings, but they don’t want to kill innovation within the ‘plex.

  11. Before any of this happens, there needs to be some sort of consolidation and single sign on for all the Google services.

    I’ve just posted about the frustrations of being forced to have several different logins for different Google services. Not only is it annoying, but it’s segragating all my user data, making it a lot less useful

  12. Good point…Technorati is a great source for blog searches. I need to remember that more often.

  13. Well just to show that they are not unassailable a good proportion of my daily searches are NOT performed on google, something I would have been surprised to hear a year ago. When searching blogs google is next to useless. Technorati and ask now serve that purpose for me.

  14. My question for you guys is:

    How many of you use Google? If you don’t use Google, what search engine do you use?

    And what are you guys doing about the fact that Google has a 50 % market share that is rising?

    Ok, so that’s 3 questions, but just a reality check for anyone who is bashing Google (not you Nick – this is one argument I dont want to get into with you )

  15. Gmail, Google chat, search and calendar are all intimately integrated. Add the google toolbar and desktop search into Firefox and you have a pretty tight set of tools. Just wanted to correct that before I launch into my diatribe against Google.

    Two of my websites as well as at least nine others that I know of (including a couple of high-traffic blogs) have been de-indexed for no discernable reason. We get absolutely no response from Google as to why. We have no idea what rule we’ve broken.

    Common thread? All right-leaning political blogs. Some moderate, some far-right…some barely Libertarian. All de-indexed without a word.

    As the network should be neutral, SO SHOULD THE SEARCH. Google wants neutrality only so far as it suits them. I could list a half-dozen right-wing or right-leaning blogs that have been refused a place in Google News, while comparable left-leaning sites are accepted as valid sources. It goes on and on.

    Politics has no place in search. Period.

    And yet, even though they have screwed me so badly that a site that once brought me a tidy $500 a month with almost zero effort now earns about $50…I still use their damn products.

    I can’t go back to regular email. I just can’t.

  16. … you can’t blend their ads into your own website, contrary to what they say. You have to make sure your website blends into their ads. Can I change the font? font size? left,right,center or justify the text? That would be really helpful as I could then actually make the ads blend into my site.

    But oh look, I can change colours!

    I like 37 Signals’ take on Google and their latest spreadshit.

    You know what? I don’t need another spreadsheet. I’ve already got a crappy one as part of Appleworks – it aint pretty, it does the math fine thank you.

  17. Great post!

    On the general subject of “google bashing”, a sport I was once proficient in but am now a little rusty at, i just read this excellent rant from John Udell on their communications blunders, something i also wrote about over a year ago.

    There’s a bunch more links to influential bloggers being a little sick of Google at Susans site

  18. Personally, I can’t contribute much intellect to this discussion other than to say that Google has become everything I despise about the web.

    We’re currently evaluating Adsense for the first time and their ‘contextual’ results aint so contextual. An unbelievable amount of crap showing up on blog that just isn’t relevant. So, I’m going to implement other contextual systems alongside Adsense (I know that breaks their TOS but I can argue their ads aren’t contextual and back that up with evidence)

    With Adsense, you can apparently use their tools that allow you to click on ads without being penalised but only if you are a Windows user!

    Total and utter codswallop in my opinion.

    Anyway, we’re going to ditch Adsense soon in favour of our own ad system.

  19. In the free subscriptions of computer mags I get, I’ve been seeing “Ads by Google” in print. Why are they giving away all this software? Hmm. Well, maybe more venues for their advertising?

    On CNBC TV yesterday, there was a discussion of Writely, but the segment host kept calling it an online spreadsheet. At any rate, they implied that Microsoft should be scared by now. Given that MSFT is trading around $22+ and GOOG at $390+, and given that Steve Ballmer has refused to buy back stock, I’d say there’s a showdown at online corral coming.

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