44 thoughts on “Is Google Wasting Its Genius Cycles?”

  1. Personally, I think this is huge. I liken it to the first spreadsheet Visicalc. Big minds can see the future impact… and it is huge!

  2. Contrary to what Google recently stated, I truly believe that Google is working on their own web browser or looking to buy an appropriate candidate, such as Opera.

    In addition, to the wifi-enabled cities, backbone fiber networks, and Microsoft Office-competing packages of free software tools (including Google Spreadsheets), Google is positioning itself to take control of the entire Internet supply chain.

    The rumoured “Google Office” package will blur the line between online and offline applications. The average user is not used to using a word processor or spreadsheet online, and the added capabilities of collaboration and location-shifting will create a whole new dynamic.

  3. what Aidan said might be true… in about 3-5 years.

    in the short-run (ie, next 4-8 quarters) nothing changes.

    therein lies Google’s advantage — but only if they really are playing for the long term. what remains to be seen is if as a public company they are driven by the same quarterly & annual cycles that drive MSFT and all other big companies… or whether they really are different.

    jury’s still out.

  4. With heightened security in all aspects of our lives and business, along with privacy issues, I find it hard to imagine that any corporation (other than those with minimal assets) would embrace using office/business applications in a free Web environment. Sun can barely give StarOffice away, so what impact can Google have on the corporate software market? Sure a few consumers and non-profits that cannot afford Office may use this, but few others. I am willing to pay my license fees for security and stability of my software provider, even for my own personal business.

    Let us remember – you get what you pay for, and there is no free lunch.

  5. WTF cares. Google is like a rock band. They create to please themselves and if the creation makes money then its a plus. What’s this “real user” BS? Google creates for all users. “Real users” is a pretty lame term because google makes most of their money off of whatever the opposite of “real users” is. I would assume “real users” avoid clicking google ads when searching.

    I guess there is really nothing in the news today. When there is no news I guess writers just pick up something from the Big Three. I just wish someone would see the thousands of articles and figure something else to write about.

  6. The issue is not whether business users can/want a mini-excel online, as much as it is what can Google pave the way for. Look at what Google did in the mapping space. Here, once more, they are disrupting the marketplace and doing two things at once: 1) making complex and/or expensive technology available for free and putting incumbents on the defensive, 2) giving new tools to millions of users to do whatever they please with – including data entry that may prove usueful to Google Base, and help ad revenue too, since ad based search engines strive on structured data.

  7. How many engineers did it take to produce Google spreadsheet? Two? Three? And how many other people did it take to launch? 3 more? What’s the result of 6 people’s efforts for 6 months?

    The press is falling over themselves trying to figure out “the implications of this announcement.” Microsoft has to spend marketing and PR cycles trying to explain to everyone why “this isn’t as powerful as Excel” in the same article which offers a “balance opinion” from analysts say that it is.

    So, for 3 staff-years, Eric Schmidt gets to make Microsoft look like its standing still again and wastes more of their C-Level execs time reacting instead of acting. Pay back is a bitch.

  8. I wouldn’t mind them continuing producing these little useful apps if they also produced something profitable. There’s so much they could be doing, but nothing they’ve come out with recently has been profitable to them, much less very successful.

    I’m still waiting for them to do two things really well:

    1. Drop their current Google Video and rebuild it exactly like ABC’s online video service. Leave the user-generated content to YouTube. Have a great looking, easy to use interface with tv shows in HD. Have the commercials work just like ABC’s, and make money sharing the profits with the show producers. Set up an Adsense for Video, and they could even put up old shows you can’t find anywhere else (anyone miss Get Smart?) and make a ton of money on the commercials. This is where the money is in online video: reproducing video I actually want to watch – and willing to watch commercials to see it – online, when they aren’t available anywhere else.

    2. Get their wifi in order. It’s too costly to set up their own wifi hotspots just to make them ad-supported. I think what they’re doing now is just getting all the kinks worked out of it, then they’re going to open it to the public. Imagine if I could download Google Wifi Setup Wizard which let me set up my home’s wifi as an open, ad-supported wifi spot, so anyone who logged on would get google ads, and I get a percentage of the revenue. Everyone turns into a wifi provider.

    Google just needs to show us they are actually spending some time working on something profitable, at least a little bit.

  9. Paul, have you ever heard of Directions @ Microsoft ? They probably had set themselves a right goal in 1999. But after the .Com crash, they just did a “U” turn and lost vision of the web. Google’s goal is to become the number one Web-Services company in the Galaxy. As told by Rob Cringley, they seldom discuss their goals in public, but if something fails they are fast enough to burn it and move on.

    They have the same goal as that of other Open Source vendors. All these products will mature over a period of time and different versions of the product will be priced. For example, they will make money selling Google Search, Gmail, GTalk, Writely, Google Spreadsheet, Google Remote Presentation, etc as a service to corporates.

  10. I think Google is bent on creating the Desktop Operating System. Spreadsheets, Google Desktop etc are just ways to create stickyness for the users. I am worried that my desktop will be filled with Ads and there will be a full screen ads blocker I will need to get 😉

  11. Unless you’re high up in Google, I guess you can’t really say what’s going to happen.

    What’s the benefit of developing a browser? Netscape did it, and failed. What’s the point of developing an internet O/S? Isn’t that a little redundant… I mean, who needs a browser within a browser? And if everyone knows it’s going to happen, why aren’t YOU developing it? I’m sorry, but with the blogosphere exploding, if you had a unique service – you’d get the needed hits to grow a massive userbase. Hell, look at Google – that’s how they did their search.

    Hint: I can definitely envision a “browser” that’s a simple launchpad to a companies services … Which would make a “browser within a browser” a bit more viable. That method would also allow a company to keep track of all your information in terms of bookmarks, blogs you’ve commented on, and just about every other bit of information that’s scattered around in the billion terrabytes the web holds.

  12. Google employs “evolving” strategies, not a single well-defined strategy.

    We’re talking self-organization and chaos theory. Very hard to predict the outcome in the short term as it’s chaotic but it’s easy to see in through this lens that they are creating progress much like evolution does.

  13. I still think that search being Google’s core competence, they should try and focus on it. If they really mean what they said when they said their search technology is at 5% of what they’d want it to be, then I think they should start working towards that 100% as soon as possible.

    Other companies are closing in, with Windows Live Search being the closest. I would really not like it if Google was dethroned from the seat of the King of search engines.

    I say it all here: Google Should Stick To Search

  14. In a world where technology, software, connectivity is largely undiffierentiated due to many cycles of distrubtion / update / dispersion, and one in which all forms of communication migrating to single method of access … what you do with the technology (or how you use it) begins to matter more than what technology you have.

    If your business model is selling information about where / what eyeballs do or how they do it, then you want to keep them returning to your platform. First round was just search engines. Plenty of competition there, so differentiation means giving away functionality that people want, but in a way that encourages use of the primary product.

    So giving away software platforms is a sound investment provided returns created by more eyeballs more often exceed costs. And giving away connectivity is on the horizon. Along with that might come giving away devices that do most of what is needed to make use of such connectivity – cellular does this but gains return via 2-year contract and high MOU charges.

    It seems that sooner or later device cost meets intersection of value as driven by competition. If so, then cheap / free edge devices are not out of the question. In exchange for some form of “agreement”, whether by contract, DRM, or purely customer good will (for lack of a better term), this all seems quite possible. Not yet probable, but then again, Mr. McCaw appears to be willing to play big in an upcoming spectrum auction so that he can “give away” WiFi/WiMax.

    YMMV, but this appears to be a rational move on Google’s part and indicates that others in this direction might be increasingly probable.

  15. It’s an interesting point, but much of the talk is short term thinking.

    To me the key is whether Google will can convert innovation into success to be come the un-Xerox Parc. I don’t know if they even know what the results will be, but they’re making the highly logical bet that:

    bigger brains x faster cycle times = more raw material for success

    Then it’s up to the corporate “GOOG” to monetize, but more importantly not to miss a huge opportunity.

    There’s in interesting parallel to MSFT here. Are they sorry they aren’t the first to market in any of the markets they’re in?

    Nope! And Google isn’t either.

    Google suffers from a (self-made) PR problem of being innovative as to execution but a follower with regard to new concepts. The media can’s separate the two concepts.

  16. I wrote about this almost a year ago when Google Desktop came out (remember that?).


    The most curious riddle for me is what are all these engineers that they have hired actually doing? If you do the math, they should be releasing a new product every day. My hunch is that until there is some internal alignment around concrete business objectives, this will be an odd product R&D shop that generates very little for consumers and a bit of PR for Google.

    Here’s a new meme: is Google stifling innovation?

  17. What the fuck is this? I don’t understand why “online” spreadsheet could be usefull … The “free” argument goes directly to the crapper, since there are tons of free (and/or open-source) and multi-platform spreadsheet software out there. Openoffice anyone?
    Google spreadsheet is just dumb.

  18. It’s cute, and will be useful for simple tasks such as minor planning within clubs, a little bit of finance tracking etc.

    But it’s no threat to MS Office in any way. And with Office 2007 being so damned good, I don’t care!

  19. Google has lost its mind. Even if this is to kickstart a long series of Office-like online apps, what is the real message that Google is trying to send to its customers? It appears to me that Google will take any popular (not necessarily appreciated, but just used widely) application out there, googlize it, and then offer it for free. Personally, I think their search, gmail, and google maps changed the way other businesses and their rivals operate. And yes, Yahoo! and Microsoft now have caught up if not gone ahead. Everything else that Google has done, including the seamless Picasa, is just another free service that they put together in their free time. Go back to search, Google — that has always been your forte.

  20. I think with tools like this spreadsheet, word processor, calendar, and google base, Google is selling the concept of remote/network computing to individuals. Once they get individuals to buy into the idea, they can then sell a more secure version to small businesses.
    Many small businesses could save a lot of money under a Google remote desktop scenario – similar to corporate Terminal Server (msft) setups.

  21. I don’t see the Google spreadsheet as a competitor to Excel. I see it reaching a totally different market and for many different uses.

    Maybe in 10 years, it could compete with MS Excel, but I don’t see it as the goal of Google at this point.

  22. A Genius Cycle is as mythical as a man-month. The reason that Google has so many Genius Cycles is because they are producing these kinds of applications. The 20% time factor, in addition to the fact that much of the remaining 80% is working on “cool” is what creates all those Genius Cycles in the first place.

  23. There seems to me to be a product strategy here and, no, it’s not the one about “no evil.” It’s the other one. You know, the one about organizing the world’s information.

    Google wants it. You have it. How can they get you, gentle readers/users, to deliver it to them?

    So many products they have been rolling out of late facilitates the act of bringing more non-HTML data to them in one way or another. I mean right to them. They don’t even have to go out and crawl it. And they can mine and/or index that data at any point now or in the future. Once the Save button is clicked, it’s in their hands and you’ve lost control forever, despite any promises they may or may not have made in the EULA.

    So if you think of the “dark web” as a vast and deep well of pure, clean and new data, think of all the extremely high-value information that is locked up in the world’s spreadsheets and Word documents that will never, ever otherwise be indexed (or at least indexable).

    I think Seinfeld’s character Newman said it best – “when you control the mail [and spreadsheets, documents and RSS feeds and user-generated video] you control information.”

    If they can knock MSFT a little off balance and generate a lot of free press/attention in the process, all the better. Pure genuis. Perhaps a little too pure…

  24. Bill: You have to be fucking kidding me, right? Please say you are, because if not, then the boat that held rational thinking and analysis left an hour ago and you were most definitely not aboard.

    Google makes boatloads of money… BOATLOADS. There’s a very good reason why their stock keeps going up and it’s not because they’re a for-profit company struggling to meet their quarterly predictions. It’s because their core competencies — search and AdSense — are incredibly successful and can afford them the time/money/people to mess around with these little Google Labs applications. Keith has this entire situation on lockdown, which is why I’m surprised few other people in the comments understand what is going on.

    Google’s strategy is working perfectly. They’re releasing these little mini-apps that take less than a tenth of a percentile of their workforce to create, and the buzz and commentary about them equates to more AdSense pageviews, more search uses, and generally more recognition and cash money for their bottom line. You know what doesn’t make them a lot of money? Everything that you talked about. How would hosting/deploying thousands of HD-quality movies make them any money, especially with the extraordinarily low profit margins they’d have to be selling them at? Apple sells iTunes Music Store songs for .99 but receives a tiny fraction of that as profit, in fact, Apple only sells iTunes Music Store songs to sell more iPods so why would Google ramp up their video offerings in order to make small potato margins?

    Search makes them a lot of money, advertising makes them a lot of money, and Google is the leader in both those spaces. For everyone’s sake, I hope you are not an investor because that would truly be a problem.

  25. I think it’s foolish to say google is wasting it’s time. In doing so, you assume to know the total market response to their products before the product has dropped the BETA tag. Google is moving in the right direction.

  26. I think you have to look at all of these Google pieces in the context of GData. That will allow synergies to be created by the people out there on the web. Google can then focus effort on what gets used.
    It could, of course, also be the case that all of these apps are the result of the 20% free time that Google employees get.
    I’d like to see a new version of Google Talk though, it feels as though it has been put on a back burner for now, which surprises me.

  27. It’ll be interesting to see whether gmail, gspread, gwrite and gcal all make it onto their search appliance for SMEs .. single box from Google that has all the collab stuff in with a funky search.

  28. why does everyone want google producing products that generate huge revenues? they’re just having fun at this point. an engineer proposed to sergey and larry that they add small sponsored links to their image search results, claiming that it could bring in an additional $80M/year. they shot it down with a smart-ass remark: “we’re not making enough money already?” if it doesn’t enhance the users experiance they’re not down.

    let google keep building us free online apps. who cares? i agree that the only legitimate tool they’ve come out with since the search is gmail, and google earth was pretty fuckin cool, but what the hell?

    “we don’t generally talk about our strategy…because its strategic, i would rather have people think we’re confused than let our competitors know what we’re going to do.” – larry page. i don’t think google is going anywhere. they will, in my mind, most definitely be successful in the long term.

    they even want to build a space elevator to transport stuff to the moon!! might as well right?

  29. I agree with some of what Troy has said above. It’s about their mission.

    I think Google is building a platform for developing and hosting applications on the web. Their web applications are not just a distraction or a toy but rather a demonstration of the capability of that platform which is getting better all the time. I’ve written more about it here.

  30. I think most of these comments are a little off. What Google wants is you on their site longer. Currently an average business user does 1.5 Google searches per day. They, in turn only last a few minutes, limiting ad impression time. With all these apps Google is working towards acquiring more eyeball time. In a spreadsheet I am likely to be spending a lot more time actually doing things. I am also adding content, which builds context, which gives us contextual ad space (revenue). Same with Writely, Maps, etc. It’s not rocket science- they want our attention.

  31. Google ? Genius cycles ?


    Google is online petfood delivery via a “.com” in disguise.

    They’ve got jack, just a bunch of hype from hyped up ads no one reads.

    Give me a break, Google at best – used an alternative indexing algorithm/methodology to enhance web searches.

    google.com ? I’ve found ask.com and guru.com is far better.

    Groups.google.com ? Can we say usenet ? Dejanews ?

    Maps.google.com Can we say http://www.mapsonUs.com for 5 years straight ?

    froogle.com ? only shows products sellers post. Gee… how biased will that be ?

    news.google.com ? Can we say XML Feed, give me a break, nothing new there.

    Earth.google.com ? This data is not new, in fact, it’s 10 years old, and not even proprietary.

    Perhaps moon.google.com holds the future for google. First off, NASA gave them just 1 tiny strip of the moon surface to show on their crappy site, and let’s ask ourselves, who the g’dmn’fck needs to zoom in on the moon ? Let alone to see the ‘cheese’ google exposed if you zoom down far enough.

    I’ve had it with google.

    In fact, goooooo huh?

    Please – let us not utter the name again.


  32. The problem with “Web2.0” freebies is indeed that they can be cut off at any time, or they can lose their freebie status. Do I want to risk a serious spreadsheet project on that? No, I prefer to have an installed version…

  33. Google has lost focus – they are firing in all directions – and every new product launch incurs one of two things:

    a) A long-term resource load to maintain the code – and keep pace with competitor offerings.

    • or –

    b) A future-debt of bad PR that will be incurred when they shut whatever frivolous service they deem is no longer economically viable.

  34. Yeah, I know…old thread who cares. But, I’m proposing a system for one of the groups I work for that will use Docs& Spreadsheets because:
    a. It’s free
    b. 50 people can work on the same files at the same time, and;
    c. It’s easy and requires no additional software for remote users.
    It’s not really an area I know anything about, but I cannot imagine what kind of resources and talent it would take to create a system that does what D&S is doing for me for free.
    (but, no, it’s not going to replace MS Office on my machine anytime soon.)

  35. Google keeps priding themselves as being innovative. Yet, I see no innovation coming from them. Yes, they expand on ALREADY EXISTING technology, but innovation? Nah. Just imagine all the innovative candidates they passed on during employment interviews because they didn’t a high enough GPA from a blueblood school.

    Einstein would have never been hired at Google and neither would have Edison and tons of other true geniuses who find the college paradigm boring and a waste of their lives.

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  37. I agree with what Ben said in June of this year. Look at G Chrome, I cannot speak from experience as I have not tried it… everyone that I spoke to said it was not all that… especially when the people I talked to are all using the technological advanced and secure FireFox. (throw me out but I am still using IE) and think that you only need one good tool. What would you do with two or three browsers other than have to cross test them when doing design!!

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