Google's 5 biggest fails

Google's 5 biggest fails

Summary: Forget Google's Senate hearings: our coin-op Congress can't find the cloakroom door unless a lobbyist greases the way. Look back on the once-great Google in 10 years and these will be its greatest failures.


Not evil, just dumb Google has an effective monopoly on search and search-based advertising. Which is fine as long as they obey the rules Microsoft so painlessly flouted while crushing Netscape.

Search benefits from massive scale. Websites benefit from fewer robots crawling the web. Search is a natural monopoly.

Despite whining from Nextag - I usually get better shopping results from Bing or Google - and blockhead former Senator Santorum - why should Google protect you from outrage you generated? - Google seems to take its top dog role seriously. Companies attacked by Google - airline search is the latest - are welcome to their hurt feelings, but if Google wins by offering better service that's the free market.

But they've been dumb enough to make them the Yahoo of 2021. Here's the list:

  • 5) Failure to buy Sun and/or Kodak. Their patents alone would now be worth north of $20 billion to Google - and would have cost less than $10B. They'd have enterprise and consumer products to leverage as well.
  • 4) Failure to embrace human-centered design. Their simple-minded A/B testing approach to web design is the web equivalent of focus groups. And focus groups can't tell you what they want until they see it. Prime example: Google TV vs YouTube, a $1.6 billion mistake because Google PhDs couldn't figure out what regular folks want. Oh, and Wave. Huh?
  • 3) Failure to understand that most early Google employees - founders included - weren't capable of handling a global corporation. Will Larry Page be the Jerry Yang of Google? I hope not, but the omens aren't good.
  • 2) Failure to control intellectual property rights to Android. Sure, software patents are often dumb. But they are the law and companies have to deal with that. Schmidt et. al. didn't - another multi-billion dollar mistake.
  • 1) Choosing to compete with Apple. Android was a panic response to the 1st iPhone. Schmidt should have known that smart phones weren't a core competency. As an Apple board member Schmidt could have cut a deal with Apple that would play to both company's strengths: Apple in consumer product design; and Google in Internet-scale infrastructure and advertising. But no-o-o! Total cost to Google: over $10B.

The Storage Bits take Eric and Larry have left Google in a precarious position that will cost billions to fix, if it can be. How many billions? Add up the Moto acquisition and the billions that Google will pay Oracle and you have a start.

Apple is also suing Motorola for core Android tech that Google's Andy Rubin may have learned as an Apple engineer. Apple doesn't always license patents, which could mean a hard reset for Google's mobile ambitions.

Google's early idealism and good works have been waylaid by abysmal management. Creative destruction - YES! Sloppy self-destruction - sad.

Comments welcome, of course. I switched to Bing for search early this year. For more on Google's potential liability to Oracle, check out FOSS patents blog.

Topics: Google, Apple, Enterprise Software, Legal

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  • RE: Google's 5 biggest fails

    I agree, especially about point 4, human centered design. I used, past tense, IGoogle from when it was beta. Loved it. Then one day I logged on There was a one inch strip of wasted space on the left and my page was squished to the right. It was ugly, hard to read, and immutable.
    I joined my voice to the choir of people who dared to ask for the ability to turn it off. I plead for a few weeks for change then returned to Yahoo. People ask me what I think about Google +, I don't nor will ever know. I don't use Google for anything. If I find that something I use is under the Google umbrella I find a replacement. They will not make revenue from my searches.
    As much as I hate Bing, I would use it before crawling back.
    • RE: Google's 5 biggest fails


      yet google is still one of the biggest players with their search engine and android OS. Sure there are failures. Chrome OS is going to be another one.

      Google TV and Google+ should get a name change. Even G-vid or Googbook sound better thant it does now.
      • RE: Google's 5 biggest fails

        @Bakabaka do you mean goobook?
    • RE: Google's 5 biggest fails

      Possible alternative suggestion if you really hate bing (search engine) and Google (company). Be careful not to click on the ads.
    • Robin Harris. - Really, a 1990s MS burn? You still can't do a blog w/o...

      one? <br>First, Netscape and MS came to a settlement. That's normal business, not an admission of guilt and Google has Bulldozed so many companies large and small, with their army of lawyers that dwarfs MS, so please stop with any kind of "It fair on the free market" BS about Google. <br>They use thier "desktop" to sell their own products. Let me know when you see a copy of windows that has adverts on the desktop. <br>Google and Apple both have notorious records of cheating and hurting other companies, or putting others out of business. They ahve both sent their army of lawyers out to kill off countless small businesses that had names even similar to their branding and who had those names first. <br>MS was about marketshare, which is what a comany is supposed to be about. Google and Apple are about doing anything for money. Anything, legal or not. <br>Get a grip and lose the old 1999s MS burns, please. You seem very child-like not letting go of your personal grudges.
      • RE: Google's 5 biggest fails

        Get your facts straight: Microsoft's anti-trust conviction was upheld by the court of appeals. They didn't have to admit guilt: they were found guilty. The DOJ and Microsoft settled in 2001.
        R Harris
      • I didn't mention their AT &quot;conviction&quot;.

        I talked about your "netscape" comment which is highly debatable.
        It's funny, Netscape had a mascot called "Mozilla" which was short for Mosaic KILLER and used to flaunt how they had CRUSHED Mosaic. What goes around comes around, eh Robin? It's appropriate that name was retained by the inheriting party, I guess.

        And I admit to a typo, I meant to say 1990s style burn because that is when your type of MS slander started to become widely used.

        So I'm not sure which facts you are talking about getting straight?
    • we all need an UPGRADE not just a replacement

      Well, a replacement would be nice indeed, but it can’t really match the original iGoogle and doesn’t really add value to your startpage... I feel it’s somehow a downgrade from the original iGoogle.

      You you will enjoy the change, I felt a real Upgrade after I start using

      It has a beautiful interface, you will love it!
      George Oneday
  • RE: Google's 5 biggest fails

    Number 5 and Number 1 seem to be complete contradictions. If they followed number 1 then they'd have had no reason to follow number 5. Frankly, I think they've done very well competing with Apple. Not necessarily in the tablet market, but on the smartphone side they've done amazingly well considering they started at nothing.
    • RE: Google's 5 biggest fails

      Point taken. If they HAD to go after smart phones then #5 makes sense. If they hadn't then no harm, no foul.

      But they did, and totally fouled things up in the process by not doing what was needed.
      R Harris
      • RE: Google's 5 biggest fails

        @R Harris

        I think we're all richer for them not following #1.

        Imagine if the iPhone had no competition.

        You are correct about #5, though. Imagine if they would have bought them instead of Motorola.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • RE: Google's 5 biggest fails

        @R Harris

        No reason to buy Sun, Java was GPL'ed and released in 2006/2007. Waste of money to buy something already available for free.

        As for other products, at least they try new products for consumers, rather than sitting on only one. Besides, what happened to Zune and Kin??? Do you think that Google is the only company that had a failure or two?

        Time to get real Robin.
        linux for me
    • RE: Google's 5 biggest fails


      But they arent doing well..

      Selling phones is different than making money, MS make more money from Android than they do.....

      $10b down drain for motorola, they bought it for patents, when Apple and MS are already suing them, meaning they still have much better portfolios.

      They will probably lose close to $10b to Oracle.

      Now show me where they made $20b from Android, not including development costs etc as well by the way.
      • RE: Google's 5 biggest fails

        @daniejam10 dead on.
    • RE: Google's 5 biggest fails

      @Ididar Buying SUN would have got them Java ownership + engineers, etc.
      Buying Kodak would have got them some relavent patents.
      Choosing to compete with Apple only pissed them off and now Apple will be less willing to support Google technologies. iPhone was a well thought out product and showed what good cooperation between two companies can achieve. Google have now shown the industry that they want more than to co-habitate with other companies. They want the whole market to themselves just like MS does. The if you can't buy 'em..then destroy 'em attitude is not a good long term business strategy because over time your competitors become too many. Why do companies flock to Android? Because they have all been burned by MS. Some time in the future the same will apply to Google.
  • &quot;Android was a panic response to the 1st iPhone.&quot;

    Nope. Android was a panic response to MS getting WinMo domination. The iPhone came later.

    I suspect Google will never show a dime of profit from Android but it is Larry's child (he purchased it without even talking to Brin or Schmidt) and he will do what it takes to see it take over.
    • RE: Google's 5 biggest fails

      The time line says otherwise: iPhone announced 1/07; shipped 6/07; Android announced 11/07. And it was a sketchy announcement suggesting it was rushed to market.
      R Harris
      • RE: Google's 5 biggest fails

        @R Harris
        But if I remember correctly, Google had been planning Android since at least 2005 at least a year and a half before the world got a sniff of iPhone. That suggests that Google wanted to get into the mobile game much earlier and compete with Windows Mobile rather than Apple.
        You may be right though about the fact that they rushed it to the market.
    • RE: Google's 5 biggest fails

      @Bruizer Theres no doubt it was a panicked response that will cost them in the end. They wanted to get Android out as quickly as possible but to do that they had to make it enticing for OEM's to pick what did they do...they basically released it for free. All the value in the Android world is being tangibly realised by the OEM's. Google are getting next to nothing for their efforts and now what little they are getting is being replaced by the likes of Amazon. So what did Google do..they panicked again and spent two years of accumulated profits in buying Motorola. Not only is Moto a dud OEM but now Google are putting all their licensees off side (HTC, etc). Every OEM know they are only one or two bad quarters away from closing shop...they know they have to differentiate and diversify. Google buying Moto has given WinMo 7, Bada, Baidu,, etc a leg up which will make Android even less profitable for Google.
  • I agree with most of your points

    Google made many mistakes especially with Android.<br>they make almost no money with it, maybe a billion a year before expenses like R&D and support.<br>(in comparison Apple must make 50 b or more a year from mobile). And Google wants to spend 12.5 b on Motorola and might have to pay billions to Oracle etc.<br><br>If Google had stayed with apple with Schmidt still on Apple's board, Google would have an inside track to Apple and tie their software closer to apple. Android could have been held back as a threat so that Apple doesn't go Bing (many Android OEMs have gone Bing, Yahoo , Bidu and Google makes no money off them). That would have been easy money.<br><br>Since Android release Google's stock price has gone nowhere, Apple's has more than tripled. From a smaller company than Google Apple's marketcap is now twice Google's.