Why is Google so bad at innovation? 44 dead products and counting…

“The Google Cemetery website lists 44 dead Google products — the latest being Google+, which was discontinued in October 2018,” Tom Foremski writes for ZDNet. “It’s somewhat shocking to see large Google products or services suddenly abandoned despite years of work — seven years for Google+.”

“There’s many more services that Google closed after investing a lot of engineering work such as: Google Wave, Google Gears, Google Talk, Picasa, iGoogle, Google Reader, and Code Search, etc.,” Foremski writes. “Some of these services might’ve also had several million users when Google shut them down. It has invested thousands of man-years of software engineers — a scarce resource — and thrown much of that work away.”

“The failure rate is even higher if you count the Google X moonshot projects, which haven been shunted off to a separate division under parent company Alphabet,” Foremski writes. “Why is Google so bad at successfully innovating new products and services? Will it ever be able to diversify from its core advertising and search business? Google hates marketing, and it doesn’t understand the role of marketing in building a successful business.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We don’t call refer to Google as Our Lady of Transitory Endeavor for nothing.

It’s ironic that a company that makes much of its revenue from selling advertising, doesn’t understand how to do it for themselves.

24 Comments

  1. It’s not as though this never happens with Apple. Their list of dead projects includes (just off the top of my head):

    Airport Express
    Airport Extreme
    Newton
    Apple III
    Macintosh TV
    Mobile Me
    iWeb
    iPod HiFi
    Pippin
    … and I’m sure the list goes on and on…

      1. I think a lot of these were pretty big initiatives to walk away from, especially if you were relying on them (as I was with both Mobile Me and iWeb).

        Oh, here are some MORE business lines that Apple has simply abandoned:
        • Laser Printers
        • Monitors
        • Servers
        • Prosumers

        I’m not saying Apple is in the same league as Google when it comes to casting off product lines, but you know what they say about people in glass houses (and we all know how much Apple loves its glass these days).

        1. Prosumers and pros are not abondoned any more. ( they dropped the ball but later acknowledged and responded )
          Apple’s new iMacs Pros are more than prosumer products.
          And the upcoming MacPro in 2019 will be an extreme pro machine.

          As for Display they are coming in 2019 as well…

          Source of info: New conference, about a year ago set up by Apple.

          PS.. many people use MacMinis as servers and the new minis are real cool… ..and Apple still offers the macOS server app.

          1. Nice to hear but I’d wait till after the product is shipping before giving credit. Their wireless charge pad still has to see the light of day after all.

        2. But a lot of those you mention were discontinued because having established the product/service in the market place others cottoned on did exactly what Apple wanted (USB was another example of this plan) and it was no longer necessary for Apple to prolong their own efforts in them. While others were victims to changes to the market place over the years that simply made those products far less relevant at all or to Apples core business. Others particularly Mobile me was a quick fix solution to a slow acknoledgement of online services, till something ‘better designed’ came along (they wanted to buy Dropbox remember to shortcut this plan) i.e. iCloud even if a political decision was made to NOT replace certain useful aspects I grant.

          Most of those other products the laser printers the Apple camera, Airport Express etc were in fact very successful in achieving the goals they were set, but would have been a distraction to have continued with, as specialist companies jumped into the market giving Apple compatibility and capabilities due to those innovative products efforts.

          Prosumers have never been dropped ignored a little agreed. Dropping Monitors was a mistake based on one eyed money saving over wider ignored values but will it seems be changed next year. The Newton was dropped because Jobs wanted revenge just as it was working out and because he had his own plans for his own replacement of course that needed a ground up design solution that he didn’t want the Newton to muddy.

          iWeb the loss which annoyed me at the time (their process of doing it still does) as it pushed me out of web design, but was in fact (if too early) internal understanding of the role online solutions like Wix were to perform in the future in that market which reluctantly I tend to agree with now, its market was going to be squeezed out of existence and they saw that correctly even if they failed to inform us the way they should or allowed the product to be sold off.

          Many other examples exist but most were not failures in their own right (iPod HiFi, Servers etc I give you) whereas most of Googles were simply outright failures in a market place where others were succeeding with similar products and neither had the market changed in most cases (glass, Google+ etc) to make those discontinued products less relevant.

          Pippin? Well at that time Apple while desperate to diversify but were in no economic position to compete with the investment others could afford to make on gaming platforms, so was a toe in the water hope on a budget purely as a punt, they rightly stopped. Apple for a long time simply did not have the money or industry influence in the past when many of those products were launched to make them industry standards in a Windows world. Google has rarely been in those positions on any of its failed products in terms of finance of industry influence.

          While of course nothing is black and white Apple has fundamentally made more of its products and innovation than Google has.

        3. WriterGuy, you seem to be missing the point. Some of the Apple items that you listed are valid comparisons to the Google failures – Pippin, iPod HiFi, and Macintosh TV, for example. They either never materialized (Pippin) or never caught on and sold well. Apple spent a good amount of resources on those efforts with little or no return.

          But other items on your list – AirPort Extreme/Express, Mobile Me, and the Newton, for example, are beast of a different sort. While Apple EOL’ed the AirPort Extreme/Express, it was a successful product for quite a few years. Mobile Me transitioned into Apple’s cloud services over time (although the iWeb service was dropped, which bummed me out). And the Newton was a shipping retail product in the 1990s that, while not wildly successful, became a seed for the iPhone. The iPhone is, I suspect, one of the most successful retail products of all time, especially in the field of consumer electronics.

          Your follow up list is a bit sketchier. To the best of my knowledge, Apple never made laser printers or monitors. They entered into branding agreements with manufacturers who incorporated Apple-specific design features (e.g., ports) or additional quality enhancements. Apple did make the Xserve (although Apple never went into blades, which surprised me), and I was also bummed out when Apple killed it off. But it was also a retail product that was available for years.

          I can’t comment on “Prosumers,” since it is not really a product. Apple simplified its Mac lineup under Steve Jobs – for instance, “pro” and “consumer” levels for laptops. I believe that the increased focus of the Apple team on fewer products was an essential factor in the success of Apple in the 2000s.

          So, you made some valid points in some areas and missed in others. In the end, however, you seem to be missing the point that Google is shoveling billions into shotgun R&D that appears to be yielding little or no return for the company. Every R&D program has more misses than hits, but Google pours a lot of money into its misses, often without ever reaching the level of a viable retail product.

          1. Best printer ever was the Apple LaserWriter, which as you say was not built by Apple. I paid $4000 for it in 1988, but it was actually a better value than the dozen pieces of junk I have been forced to buy since. It’s a rare printer that lasts two years now.

  2. Maybe it’s because Google initially got lucky through good timing, has no ability to innovate, can only half-assedly copy others, and is a grossly unethical joke in general? If any if the aforementioned factors had faltered at any time, Google would have abandoned Google. They are, as mentioned, a very wealthy joke. Always have been. Ditto Facebook, Amazon, et. al.

    1. As they sang in Pippen: “It’s better to be lucky than it’s lucky to be good.”

      On the other hand, you can’t attribute ALL of the success of Google, Facebook and Amazon to luck and timing. Give them credit: they’ve each cornered near-monopoly positions in their field through ruthless determination and a take-no-prisoners approach to competitors that would make John D. Rockefeller proud.

  3. Google may have failed at some things..( failing is not a bad thing if one learns from it.. and i think they learn a lot from their innititves)
    But to think they are a joke it’s ludicrous…

    Their AI and Search is way head of anything out there.. and if that is a joke and easy to do.. show me who has it better? And why havent Apple or anyone else been able to come close?

    Now keeping that AI at the leading edge of the industry is as massive of an inovation as there can be.. (and dangerously powerful)

    Add on top their advertising model and buisness model.. nothing there that is remotely a joke!

    But i dont like google regardless… ….for copying ios shamelessly and their indiscriminate use of users data.
    But every thing has a cost. And that is the cost of their powerful AI.
    Raw Data, Data analytics and contextual understanding, algorithms and etc…

    1. I agree calling them a joke is getting away from the point of this whole debate they are very good at what they do and indeed have succeed in moving away from that at least as well as Apple in recent times, arguably better. Their scatter gun of products hoping some will stick is the thing that is certainly different and simply dumping them when they don’t that makes a fundamental difference in that grey area between the companies I think. However it is certainly not an exclusive game we have to accept as no company is immune its just the depth of the process I think.

  4. You’re missing the point. Effective innovation embraces the idea of “fail fast”. If you don’t take risks, you don’t innovate. Google (and Apple’s) willingness to kill failing ideas is a strength, not a weakness.

    1. Apple kills hits also. Aperture changed the market place and made Adobe step up their game. Apple ignored it and left those of us who paid for it holding the bag. iWeb another hit, left to rot.

  5. Looking at the list, I find I did join Google+, not sure why, probably some reason or other, but, actually did not recognize any of the others. How does Google announce these things?

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