8 Google Products Larry Page Should Kill

Larry Page White Coat

In its Q4 earnings call last week, Google said that it will be more aggressive about getting rid of experiments and products that aren’t working.

As CFO Patrick Pichette said, the company will let Google business units compete for users, then it will “feed the winners” and “starve the losers.”

Apart from search, Google named four businesses as winners: display advertising, Android, YouTube, and Google Enterprise.

As losers, Google pointed to its quick retreat on Wave and the Nexus One direct-to-consumer strategy for Android.

When Larry Page takes over as CEO on April 4th, here are some more losers he should cut.

Knol: like Wikipedia, but not as useful

Knol was supposed to provide a more authoritative source than Wikipedia -- articles are written by subject matter experts -- but after almost two years, the site has so many gaps in content that it's practically worthless. Google should be indexing the Web's knowledge, not providing a half-hearted storehouse for some randomly selected portion of it.

In fact, this one's been on the deathwatch list for so long, it's amazing that it's still around. But it's still listed on Google's products page.

Orkut: because Brazil is not enough

Being the biggest social network in Brazil isn't a credible response to Facebook. Orkut has too many users for Google to shut it down, but the company should easily be able to find a buyer.

Buzz: who uses it?

Google Buzz looks a lot like Facebook, with one big difference -- almost nobody uses it. Privacy concerns scared a lot of users away early on, and despite being integrated into Gmail, it just hasn't taken off.

Health: too much work, too little reward

If Google Health really made it easy to organise your medical records in one place it might be useful. But right now it only supports automatic imports from a handful of other online sources, and entering information manually is a huge chore -- do you really want to spend your weekend entering your health insurance information into a Web site when most of it is probably in your insurance provider's site already? Google Health is not going to revolutionise the health care industry and it's way outside Google's core business.

Boutiques: too specialised

Google has specialised search products for news, blogs, products, even U.S. patents and academic research papers. That's all part of organising the world's information. But Google isn't exactly known as a trusted name in women's fashion. This is the narrow type of niche that Google shouldn't be trying to fill.

Self-driving cars: why?

It's one thing to give consumers more information about their energy use with initiatives like Google PowerMeter -- at least that fits into the company's stated mission of organising the world's information. It even makes sense for Google to invest in renewable energy research, so it can help reduce the costs of running its huge data centres. But building self-driving cars in hopes of solving the world's energy problems and global warming? That's an interesting hobby, or maybe a spin-off company.

Chrome OS: Android does more, better

Originally envisioned when netbooks were the next big thing, Chrome OS has outlived its usefulness -- and it's not even shipping in production computers yet. Android does most of the same things that Chrome OS does, plus it can run native apps (not just Web apps), has a market filled with more than 100,000 apps, and is shipping on more than 300,000 devices per day. Most important, Android was designed for touch screens, and the upcoming 3.0 (Honeycomb) release is tailored for tablets. Chrome was an interesting experiment, but it's over. It's time to merge it into Android.

Google TV: because TV and the Web don't mix

TV advertising is an enormous market, and Google has reason to try and worm its way into that market. Getting between advertisers and TV providers -- for example, helping advertisers buy and track ads more effectively with Google TV Ads -- makes sense.

But attempting to improve TV by adding an extra layer between users and their TVs has been tried countless times. It never works.

First, when people sit down in front of their TV, they want a passive experience. They don't want to surf the Web, watch a bunch of short-form Internet videos, or use a keyboard to conduct searches. Second, if Google (or anybody else) discovers a service that consumers actually do want, TV providers will eventually build it into their own systems and set-top boxes. Case in point: TiVo and digital video recording.

Of course, Google has stretched into new areas before and succeeded. Two years ago, nobody knew that Android phones would be a runaway success. But at least Apple had demonstrated that consumer smartphones were a real and viable market. Nobody has ever demonstrated that consumers want an extra layer of software that sits between them and their TV.

What about video game consoles? They're successful -- but they're not about TV. They're specialised gaming computers that happen to use a TV set as a monitor.

Google should take the early bad reviews of Google TV to heart and kill this project before it becomes an endless sinkhole of disappointment.

Now, see who else at Google is making the big decisions...

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