Google Drive and the Danger of Doing Too Much

Posted by · April 18, 2012 4:20 pm

Remember the days when Google just did search—and did it well?  Yeah. I hardly remember that far back either.  Over the past few years, Google has been working to launch (and subsequently kill) new products, acquire companies and expand outside of its core competency at a rapid fire pace.  A few weeks ago, the Internet was buzzing (also a dead Google product) with news of Google glasses, then there was last week’s revamp of Google + and today there’s talk that Google will be launching Google Drive, a cloud storage service poised to compete with Dropbox, next week.

As Google products go, Google Drive, or GDrive, is really just a natural extension of some of Google’s more successful products like Gmail (which had 350 million users as of January) and Google Docs. Provided Google Drive is integrated with Google Docs and third-party applications and as long as the Google Drive pricing plan is competitive with Dropbox, I predict that Google Drive will experience average success.

Google, however, is never satisfied with an average product, nor should they be.  The problem is—and I speak from experience here– that when a company is doing so many different things, it’s difficult to do all of them well.  Just ask Yahoo. In fact, if you compare Google and Yahoo, you see that they aren’t that much different.

Killing Spree

In 2011 alone, Google killed almost 50 different resources, products and applications.  Remember Google Wave, Google Health and the aforementioned Google Buzz? What about Google Wallet? So far, the app that was going to revolutionize mobile payments is still only on one carrier and two phones.  And let’s not even talk about the ghost town that is Google +.  Sure, 150 million people have signed up for the social network, but that doesn’t mean they’re using it.

By comparison, Yahoo sold its online bookmarking service, Delicious, a year ago and last month said it plans to close Yahoo Widgets.  Addition, CEO Scott Thompson announced yesterday on Yahoo’s Q1 earnings call that Yahoo plans to shut down or combine 50 of their properties in the near future.

“One of the most important pieces of our strategy, and that of any business in a fast-growing market, is in regularly defining what we won’t do,” Thompson said.

Among the products that I think should be shuttered at Yahoo are Yahoo Connected TV (Google has one of those too), Yahoo Maps (Google Maps is far superior), Yahoo Answers/4Cast (Google killed that animal a while ago), and Yahoo Events (the one product I don’t think Google has…so maybe Yahoo should keep it after all).   

Similar yet different

As you can see, there are more similarities between Google and Yahoo than differences.  But the key difference between them—search traffic—is what gives Google the edge. By building their search engine first—and to almost complete market domination—Google is now able to push their products to everyone using their services.

Let’s be honest, people are much more prone to buy or use products based on exposure than quality, so Google products have an automatic advantage simply by the sheer number of Google users. (Gosh, if you think Google + is floundering, just think of the abject failure that would befall a Yahoo social network.)

When Larry Page took over as CEO of Google again, his goal was to bring the company back into focus, something that I would argue he has made progress towards but has failed to completely succeed at doing.  In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek earlier this month, Page himself stumbled when trying to define what Google is today.

“I think you have—I mean, what does it really mean to be a search company? I mean, even at that time, I think at that time and now, basically our soul is the same. I think what we’re about is we’re about using large-scale kind of technology: technology advancements to help people, to make people’s lives better, to make community better,” Page said.

That’s a far cry from “organizing the world’s information” if you ask me; and while Bing still has a long way to go to catch up with Google’s search market share, people have been debating the quality of Google search results (particularly with the implementation of personalized results) for a while now. If Google loses ground in the search game, then its library of (mediocre?) products run the risk of dying out as well.

Perhaps it’s time for Google to rework its mission statement or renew its focus on the business that made it a success in the first place.

  • Mohammed J

    Perfect article Jenn, I totally agree with you and speaking of my own experience with Google search! The performance of their search engine is not satisfying at all nowadays and most of the accurate search queries relies on the first page only!

    Add to this, since Google added their + service to the search engine, it has been annoying to just go into a social network instead of finding a relevant result to what you’re really looking for!

    Keep up the good work, and thanks for the info regarding google drive!
    Mohammed JH

  • @Mohammed JH- Thanks for the kind words and for reading the EE Tech News blog!