I haven’t been very quiet about my recent reservations about Google. I really don’t think they really have any amazing products any more, and are heading in a downward spiral. People used to brag about Google’s flat corporate structure as a huge bonus, and at first it seemed really appealing. But after recently visiting the company’s main location in MountainView, and talking to a few people, I’m more of the opinion that it’s hurt them more than it’s helped them. In fact, I think part of the reason most of their products end up being rather “meh” is that there’s just not enough corporate push to make these products any better.
You see, Google puts most of their products in a perpetual beta stage. That’s normally the last cycle of software before it hits the customers. It’s normally meant to iron out a few of the last bugs that have such a low occurrence of probability that you need a larger sample size to realistically detect them. Historically, beta cycles didn’t last that long. At my current company, a beta lasts only a few weeks, assuming we even bother with a beta cycle.
Some of Google’s products have been in beta for years. The only motivation I can see for doing that is to purposefully place the expectation on your users that your products are going to be in a perpetual state of bugginess. And to me, that’s just laziness on their part.
About six months ago, everyone started talking about Android and how it was going to change everything. I sort of yawned (much like I yawned when everyone said how great open social was going to be) and said “we’ll see.” My main reservation about products like Google gears is that they are solutions looking for problems to solve. Sure, you can store a bunch of local stuff on your computer to make your web experience better, but most people don’t need that. Plus, once you move towards a world where everyone is online constantly (we’re fast approaching that), the need for local data disappears.
That’s why I think Android is in an even tougher spot. I just think they don’t have the corporate motivation or the vision to make that platform be what it could be. Apple announced the new iPhone and the App store long after Android was in the works, and yet we’re still a long way from Android. Granted, Android is attempting to solve a harder problem, but they basically missed the boat on this one.