Google may be going from an experimental corporation to simply one that's unfocused, disjointed and prone to dabbling.
Consider the headlines emerging from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona:
- Google won't launch a wireless carrier, but wants to forge some kind of Nexus arrangement. Google won't operate a carrier at scale. It's worth noting that the Nexus deals with hardware partners haven't exactly delivered a commercial must-have hit so you may want to refrain on those overused "disruption" headlines.
- There's a new guy in charge of Google+. What's Google+? Exactly. You may have even joined Google's Facebook killer a few years ago. Not that you ever went back.
Those two bullet points can be tossed into the mix with Google's drones, robotic cars, cellular radio balloons, delivery services and other newfangled businesses. The business for Google is advertising. The history of Google since that advertising moonshot has revolved around finding another one.
Google emerged as a company looking to organize the world's information. It increasingly looks like a company throwing stuff up against the wall to see what sticks.
And the tech press falls for these storylines repeatedly. We almost instinctively assume that just because Google aims to do something that the company will succeed. This reflex is one reason that Google+ management change is at the top of Techmeme. Some of us still seem to think that Google+---social backbone of Google or not---matters somehow even if it basically becomes a glorified photo app.
In many ways, Google resembled Microsoft 15 years ago or so. We all just assumed that Microsoft would enter a market and win it. That assumption went on for years---until it didn't. People repeatedly looked over that little thing called focus. To be sure, Microsoft created more than its share of billion-dollar businesses. Google isn't there yet. At some point, that experiment-over-focus approach wears off and Google will become one of the largest business school case studies ever.