Google's 5 biggest fails

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.