Actions Speak Louder than Words

As the English philosopher John Locke once said: “I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts.” If Google’s actions at the recent I/O conference are any indication, its enterprise customers just aren’t a priority.

The Google I/O developer conference is supposed to be the main event that showcases Google’s innovations. But once again, Google showed a lack of innovation and investment in Google Apps for Business at the conference. From Android to Chrome to Google+, the vast majority of company sessions were consumer-focused.

As CIO Journal reporter Rachel King said in her article, “Google Sends Mixed Messages about the Enterprise: “Every so often, Google dips its toes into the enterprise just enough to make CIOs think the company is serious about attracting business customers.” King wrote that Google “put on a good show of talking about catering to workers.” But just after Google executives finished talking about the consumerization of business and pitching Google Compute Engine, the keynote cut away to live video of Sergey Brin wearing a pair of Google Glasses and then to a reenactment of the previous day’s skydiving stunt.

“Every so often, Google dips its toes into the enterprise just enough to make CIOs think the company is serious about attracting business customers.”

- Rachel King, Reporter, CIO Journal

What conclusion are we to draw from this? Simply put: I’m sorry, Google enterprise customers, but you’re not the company’s main focus. As InfoWorld reporter Galen Gruman noted about the Android after the I/O conference: “Certainly, Google has largely ignored the specific needs of business in the last year, and now it seems to be even more focused on the consumer electronics side.”

Short-Shrifting its Business Customers
So what were Google’s so-called “innovations” for business customers at the I/O conference? Google released a version of its Google Drive service for Apple’s mobile devices. So if you’re using an iPhone, iPad, or iTouch, you can “see” your documents. But that’s about it. You can’t edit documents from the iPad or iPhone in the Google Drive app for iOS. You can’t create documents. Nor can you organize and sort your documents. As Eric Zeman of InformationWeek wrote: “That’s pathetic.” The interesting thing is that the Safari browser can already do all of this, so what’s the point of the announcement?

After another year of innovation, Google also announced that it has made offline editing available for Google Documents in Chrome.  Note that it only works with the Chrome browser. So, if you happen to use Internet Explorer or Safari, for example, you’re out of luck. And if you want to edit presentations or spreadsheets offline, consider yourself out of luck, too.

The limitations don’t end there. You can’t insert an image or a drawing when working offline. Nor can you print your document. Even more alarming, when an online collaborator deletes the text you edit while offline, his or her changes will override yours.

The bottom line is that 18 months after de-investing in Gears and leaving customers in the dark, Google announced limited offline capabilities, again! As Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, told Computer World: "Offline access is something that Google should have made a priority and delivered before now. Web access isn't nearly as ubiquitous as some might think and being able to do useful work offline is critical to most business people."

Advertising Über Alles
Google’s lack of business focus at the I/O conference isn’t anything new. Again and again, Google sends the message that its enterprise customers just aren’t a priority. Notably, when CEO Larry Page issued his one-year State of Google update earlier this year, Google Apps for Business wasn’t even mentioned.

The fact is that Google continues to derive 96 percent of revenue from advertising, and that’s where the company’s focus lies. One can learn a lot simply by observing the company’s actions. As the Huffington Post reported in April: “When he took over as CEO, Page quickly made his top priority clear by moving Google's executive offices into the same building as the team working on Google Plus. Page also tied a portion of employee bonuses to the success of Google Plus."

Google is fixated on using Google+ as a way to compete with Facebook for advertising customers. If you have any doubt, just ask James Whitaker. A former engineering director at Google, Whitaker left the company for Microsoft earlier this year because of Google’s preoccupation with advertising: "The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate,” he wrote in a blog post. “The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus."

Indeed, there’s a large disconnect between what Google promises its business customers and what it delivers. Google can make all the promises it wants. But in the end, it’s the company’s actions that matter.