Thursday, November 1, 2012

Google: from Innovator to Average Quality Copycat?

Even though Google keeps shutting down products that did not take off or that don't pay off, they still pursue way too many new businesses and new products to become great at any one of them. Well, some are great. A few. But more and more are becoming just average.

Why is that?

Apparently Google has reached a critical size, and maintaining the existing stack demands huge resources. For developing new products, such as Google Drive, there just aren't enough a-list candidates available. And there is competition on the job market. While 10 years ago any candidate would choose Google over Microsoft, there are far more attractive players on the market now. Plus: starting your own business has never been cheaper.

At the same time other, agile players appear on the market, focusing on just one product.

Why do I use Google products even though there are viable alternatives?

  • Almost 100% uptime.
  • It's usually above average in functionality. 
  • The free version is not crippled beyond usefulness.
  • It's integrated with all the other products, same login, 1 click away.
  • "Don't be evil" motto. They don't run out of money and need to find new sources of income.
  • I don't want to learn a new product every 2 years. A new player might disappear quickly when running out of fundings. 

3 product categories

Products, not just for software, can be grouped into 3 categories:
  1. Those that make you freak out from time to time.
  2. Those that just work as they should.
  3. Those that, besides working, have some awesome things that you wouldn't even think of, but once you see them, instantly understand and love.
Microsoft products used to be in group 1. Your MS Word crashed and you didn't have the document stored? Windows blue screen?

Google was a breeze. Google products kept coming out with those category 3 features. Lots of innovation. Page rank. Text ads. Chrome is full of them. The software update process for example. Or how chrome opens tabs next to the current one instead of at the end. It took one instant, one click, and my thought was "Omg, why did no one think of this before!".

Enters Google Drive

Recently, Google products dropped to category 2. And the reason for this blog post is Google Drive, which is a clear category 1 product, and should be labeled Beta at most. But the Windows app "about" message gives it a stable version 1.5, and Wikipedia labels it as "stable". It only came out 5 months ago, but because Google entered that profitable market late, they apparently can't afford to label an "online backup service" as beta at this time.

Google Docs was good. My experience with the Google Drive Windows tool is bad so far. On the first day, after installation, and copying 2GB of data into the folder, it could not synchronize all files (had to re-try several times), gave useless error messages "an unknown issue occurred", crashed twice.
Now, a couple weeks later, I added a new folder with a 50MB file in it. Then I wanted to rename that folder, and Windows Explorer told me I can't because the file is locked (that must have been Google Drive). So instead (I did not wait) I created a new folder, and just moved the file itself (that worked). Job done, I thought. The next day, after waking Windows up from sleep mode, Google Drive tells me it crashed. It doesn't restart automatically. So I better check if my files are synchronized. As I drill down the folders I notice that they all have the green checkmark icon (synchronized). Arriving at the leaf, surprise surprise, the file is not synchronized.

Only now I realize that the web is full of articles about how Google Drive sucks, of people claiming that they lost files. A 26% hate rate is devastating (whereas Dropbox reaches almost 100% love rate from 600k people).

My experience with Dropbox

Way better. I've been using it for almost 2 years. Transfer rates are much slower, but that's not an important criteria for me. While using it almost daily, it never crashed, and I experienced the following 2 issues:
  1. Sometimes, when opening an MS Excel document (yes I still have some of those), Dropbox updates the change timestamp. This sucks, I don't want an entry in the changelog.
  2. One time, after waking up another device that was not synchronized in weeks, Dropbox thought that some files were conflicting, even though no one touched them in the meantime, and their content was identical too. What Dropbox did was keeping both "versions", one with a different file name (conflict and timestamp). Annoying, but no data lost.

My conclusion: Don't use Google Drive as a backup solution, have another backup somewhere. Or best, don't use Google Drive except for the Google Docs online documents.

A word to Google 

Please focus on the important products, innovate, and don't shut down the ones I'm using. And keep working on the robot car, I can't wait, the world will be a better place.

A word to Google Skeptics

This is good news for those who were concerned that Google would grow too big, take over the world, and know all about you. Nah. Remember the talks about breaking up Microsoft because it was too powerful, 12 years ago?

1 comment:

  1. is another service from Google that I classify as category 1. Even as a programmer I find it hard to use, often hard to achieve what I want. Here are 2 examples:
    1) Inserting images is such a case... only through a Google search I figured out how to size images for full width.
    2) I just posted a comment on a post of my own blog. In reaction to this the platform sends me an email, telling me that Fabian Kessler (yes that's me) posted on my blog. And the email contains the whole text, with domain names and urls link-enabled. Not so the post, it's just plain text. And nowhere in the settings could I change this.