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What the heck is going on at Google?Is Larry Page on vacation? Or maybe just distracted with all these acquisitions?
The company has had more botched product launches and embarrassments in the last month than most companies have in a year.
First, there was the Nexus Prime. Google invited journalists from all over the country to the CTIA show in San Diego for the unveiling of its new flagship Android phone…then canceled the event at the last minute out of respect for Steve Jobs’ death.
OK, that was a classy move (if that was in fact the real reason — one mobile blogger suggested it had more to do with the ongoing Samsung-Apple patent disputes). But it meant a lot of reporters who Google invited were stuck in San Diego without much news to report. Weirder still, Google rescheduled the event a mere week later, while the news of Jobs’ death was still fresh…and made it halfway across the world in Hong Kong.
Not a great way to make a splash.
Then last week, the company accidentally released a video showing the new version of Gmail — several days before it was ready. They quickly pulled it, but by the time the new Gmail came out, the damage was done — there was no element of surprise.
This week took the cake, though.
On Monday, Google redesigned Reader to look more like its other products — particularly Docs and Gmail. The Internet screamed with outrage, and one of its former product managers took the company to task for seemingly obvious boo-boos like making the reading pane smaller and requiring four clicks (instead of one) to share content.
To be fair, Google has done some things right this month — the update to Google TV and subsequent announcement of more than 100 new YouTube channels went off pretty well, although you have to wonder why they weren’t announced at the same time.
But overall, the drawbacks of Google’s ready-fire-aim approach are starting to show.
That’s been an intentional approach — Google wants to fail fast, learn from its mistakes, and then gradually improve.
But at some point, Google has to grow up and realise the whole world is watching. It has to impose a little bit more discipline on its product releases — and stop releasing half-baked, half-tested, half-finished stuff.
If the company wants to be more like Apple, it’s time to start ACTING more like Apple.