Google is a frustrating company. They have some of the best and brightest folks working for them, and while they are a massive empire with nearly unlimited funds, there are so many things they just don’t get right. I want to look at three different categories where Google is currently failing.
While Fitbit has been around the longest, Apple really kicked wearables into high gear with the Apple Watch. It’s a solid product but it only works with Apple hardware. Google created Android Wear and now WearOS to counter and there are many different manufacturers making watches based on the OS. Most of these Wear OS products are lackluster, however, and are based on old, slower hardware. In general, innovation on the Google side has been much slower than Apple. I have the gut feeling Google doesn’t really want this badly enough. Sometimes Google tries something, then seems to lose interest and ends up walking away. I honestly cannot tell what’s going on with WearOS yet.
With cellphones, Android phones also lagged behind the iPhone until Google started making their own Pixel phone which was far superior to any other Android phone. In part, Google did this to set the bar higher and spur manufacturers to up their game. They did just that as Android phones became much better and are now right on par with the iPhone.
So the question many have been asking is, why doesn’t Google make a Pixel Watch? The industry again needs an aggressive front runner to set the bar and show them what can be done. No signs of a Pixel Watch are on the horizon and there are very little signs Google is taking wearables seriously. This is one of the reasons I did not buy a WearOS watch and went with a FitBit Versa. I’m not interested in buying into questionable technology and many other customers are likely thinking the same thing. Until google shows some real commitment here, they are likely to continue to flounder.
In streaming music, Google’s product has been Google Play Music which is a very good service. Google almost never promotes it or does anything interesting with it. Like too many Google efforts, it is a forgotten child. They don’t seem to have a clear focus or plan for it. It’s just left to wither. Then Google, again as is typical and out of nowhere, comes up with a complete replacement for it in the new YouTube Music. YouTube already was running as a quasi-music service itself which is very confusing. So Google Play Music will shut down as everything will move to YouTube Music.
It was at this point that I lost my trust in Google to do this right and I moved from Play Music to Spotify. I was proved right as the new YouTube Music app has been widely derided and in my own testing, I can confidently say, it’s pretty bad. How hard can it be for one of the world’s most powerful technology companies to create a music app? Play Music was perfectly good, so not that hard but you can see why I am confused. YouTube Music appears to be going nowhere and they’ve already killed Play Music, so who knows what happens next.
Chromebooks are a bold experiment to build a computer without a traditional operating system. The Chromebook runs ChromeOS, which is basically a web browser and nothing more. Applications are web apps or Chrome Apps as they are now called. As a result, the machine is lightweight, more secure and less expensive than Windows or Mac machines. Chromebooks evolved slowly through the years and gotten better bit by bit. They never truly reached their full potential, however, and now Google is changing the game.
About a year ago it was announced Chromebooks would be able to run Android apps, which is a tacit admission the Chrome App strategy just isn’t working. The implementation of Android on the Chromebook, however, is terrible. Apps do not run at full screen and just never look right. Far from a seamless experience, Android on Chromebooks is half baked. Now Google has announced Chromebooks will be running a Linux OS, alongside I guess ChromeOS and Android. What a muddled mess! What exactly IS this machine? Google is like the opposite of Apple where everything is carefully thought out down to the last detail. Google throws things at the wall and when they don’t stick, they through more things at the wall.
I think the crux of the problem is Google is often so tied up and focused on the technology, the AI and the algorithm that they forget the human component. Apple hires tech people but also artists. This was one of Steve Jobs greatest achievements. He understood they were building technology, but for real people. Apple can see both sides of the equation. Google can see only one side. For Google, technology rules all, which is why they often have lousy user experiences and confusing strategies. It’s frustrating to watch as with the resources at their disposal, it should never happen. And that’s the key. They’re missing the one key resource, the human resource.