Does Google Have a Product Strategy?

I get highly irritated when people speculate without sanity checks.

Google somehow manages to draw press (388 articles on Google Desktop 2) and rampant blog posts that continue to unjustifiably accord significance and import to what is a fairly weak record of desktop software and ancillary web products.

Don’t get me wrong, I use Google all the time but people seem to have lost track of the fact that Google has had success in two areas — building a scalable index and rapidly rolling out the infrastructure to support an ad network.

Hegemony in web search is just that, it doesn’t necessarily translate into anything else: Gmail is currently #6860 on the Alexa rankings, not exactly nipping at the heels of Yahoo!Mail or Hotmail. Hello.com (coupled with an excellent piece of software — Picasa) is steady at #8596, far behind industry leaders and Yahoo! rising star Flickr.

Let’s talk a bit about desktop software. This is something that I have some experience with as one who has overseen the Webshots Desktop, one of the most downloaded software programs of all time (in the hundreds of millions). Google Desktop 2 will have about as much tactical impact in competition with Microsoft as Eudora 6.2 will against Outlook.

For software to be mainstream successful, there are two critical requirements: people must need it and there must be a distribution network. GD2 fails on both accounts and you can open up all the APIs and let people build the neatest widgets in the world and in the end you’ll have a great alternative to Firefox.

If you want to know what people want, just keep your eye on download.com’s most popular list. No surprise, spyware protection, p2p file sharing, and long established brands (e.g. winzip, ICQ, Webshots).

It appears, Google is poised to launch an IM client. How fast are all the teenagers out there going to bail from AIM to download and run some new software? Consumers don’t need another webmail provider and they definitely don’t need a new IM client.

[ Update: Google Talk is out and now has 520 press articles! ]

Bill Gates must have a good laugh at the press Google garners from its software initiatives. For better or for worse, Microsoft will have to make the huddled masses’ computers safe from exploits and easy to search, and will do so on its own time.

If Google wants to conquer the desktop, they need to use their cash and buy Ad-Aware, Spybot, iMesh, LimeWire, Morpheus, et. al. and grow into a true software company. At the same time they will need to beef up their legal budget as they defend the rights of p2pers.

The other option would be to buy Apple and see if they can crack 10% in the PC market.

Some articles on GD2: news.com, John Battelle, Greg Sterling, SF Chronicle

2 comments

  1. Anonymous

    GoogleOS? YahooOS? MozillaOS? WebOS?

    http://www.kottke.org/05/08/googleos-webos

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