Google Graveyard Spooks Customers

The wind is blowing, and I think I hear a howl.

After all, Google customers are not finding tools they have been using over the years. The tools are dead and buried.

The ad company spooked Inc.’s Erik Markowitz as well. In tiptoeing past the Google Graveyard he quotes Google regarding one of their product cancellations:

"Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked...We don't plan to continue developing Wave as a standalone product, but we will maintain the site at least through the end of the year and extend the technology for use in other Google projects."

Are they in tune with business customers?
Given the speed of business today, organizations need intuitive and social tools to collaborate with colleagues and connect with their customers. In attempting to speed products to market, Google has rolled out poorly planned products and racked up a long list of failures. There was Buzz, Google’s answer to Facebook, that exposed private Gmail contacts and ended with a privacy lawsuit settlement, and Google Wave, with a long list of issues, which prompted TechCrunch’s article calling it “…worst of email and IM together: unproductivity”.

In cancelling this group of social media-like services, it is clear that Google is not in tune with the market needs and does not have a product roadmap and clear vision for productivity for their business customers. The Microsoft Office team does. Our vision demonstrates a clear focus on what business customers are looking for, such as intuitive interfaces across a wide range of devices.

Our marketing, field, and service teams at Microsoft use social media applications daily as do many businesses today. If we had adopted these Google tools, we would have lost our dialogues with millions of customers all over the world.

So, back to Google.

Google's product management process is like “cooking spaghetti”
The recent killing of Google Labs is ironic to me. Google releases experimental products and tracks adoption to determine whether to continue providing them. Its products are like spaghetti, Google throws them up against the wall to see if they stick.

Case in point, as of its June release, the company is giving Google Plus a try in the social space, and now they are providing access to it for Google Apps customers. But can businesses and schools trust it to be there for very long, judging by the history of Google’s social family?:

• Wave lived 15 months from May 2009-August 2010,
• Aardvark lived 19 months from February 2010-September 2011, 
• Buzz lived 20 months from February 2010 to October 2011.

It didn't take long for the first Google Plus bungle to happen, coming from its own engineer’s internal business communication that accidentally went out to the world. Given the lack of proper IT safeguards, I just can’t see how a business can take the risk of using Google tools. It's not surprising that CIO.com cites: Privacy a Concern as Google Links Plus with Its Other Sites. As I read this piece from networking technology legend, Vint Cerf, I wonder even if any of the ad business’ users can expect privacy?: Vint Cerf on Google's Privacy Practices and How Getting Tagged in a Multitude of Online Media is Disconcerting.

Convenient for Google. Not good for business.
The burials of de-supported products are more examples of what is convenient for Google and not good for business. Recall from Tony’s blog on the topic that Google leaves no planning horizon for software updates, and that it has a short product support lifecycle. For Google Apps customers, the Google Scheduled Release track gives business a one-week window to prepare and adopt the latest changes to Google Apps after announcement, but businesses need planning and predictability. Imagine this list of questions from business users:

• Am I getting a software update this week, or this month, or the week when all my stores are busy with their quarterly inventory?
• Will the Google tool I am using to build my web site be there in six months when I need to build new pages?
• My sales reps are hungry for demo and training videos for our new product lines launching next week. How do I quickly identify a tool to replace Google Video and get people to adopt it?

If I were running a business using web-based productivity tools from Google, learning about their discontinuation of support for older browsers would make my hair stand on end. I’m sure it is a lot easier for Google to limit the number of browsers it supports than to address differences in the browsers, but I were an institution or business relying on Google Apps, it would be completely unreasonable to force version upgrades, and unacceptable to expect that users will always have the latest browser versions.

It is clear that Google’s product management practice is haphazard and noncommittal, resulting in its deliveries often falling short of expectations. Before finally re-releasing offline capabilities, Google stopped investing in Gears, its previous offline product, and removed its support in Chrome 11. This confused many users and caused concern. Ultimately, Google failed to deliver what customers need in offline capabilities, provided empty promises over a one-year period, and then released offline solutions that were even worse than the original product.

Microsoft Has a Predicable Approach to Supporting Products
Recognizing the importance of predictability for cloud services as well as software, Microsoft has a predictable and disciplined release cadence for cloud services such as for Exchange Online. Through our policy in place since October 15, 2002, Microsoft provides a 10 year support lifecycle:

“Microsoft will offer a minimum of 10 years of support for Business and Developer products. Mainstream Support for Business and Developer products will be provided for 5 years or for 2 years after the successor product (N+1) is released, whichever is longer.”

-- Microsoft’s Support Lifecycle Policy

Not only does Microsoft have a long support lifecycle for existing products, it helps businesses and users in their software rollout phases, providing a consistent, built-in “compatibility mode”. This helps customers assure they can utilize files and content created for previous product versions. An Internet Explorer 9 user can see content built for browsing via Internet Explorer 8. Web page meta elements simply trigger use of the "compatibility mode" in the IE9 browser.