Home Can Google Grow Up?

Can Google Grow Up?

As mentioned last week on Google’s blog, this fall the company will shut down a series of services, including Aardvark, Desktop, Notebook, Web Security (the original Postini technology) and others less well known. Jeff Reeves at Smart Money magazine has even suggested spinning off several divisions to give Google more focus, and giving employees an incentive for some of its far-out ideas.

But first, you’ll need a scorecard to keep track. Some of the shut-downs are complete: for example, with Google Desktop, nothing will kept up: the APIs, gadgets, plug-ins and everything else will go away next week. Other shut-downs are more transitional: For example, Google will continue to support existing Web Security customers, although it will not sell any new subscriptions. And Aardvark? Shuttered. All we can do is sigh. (See here for our thoughts on when Google acquired them.)

What does this mean? Obviously, Google is maturing as a company, and even with all of its resources can’t continue many of its product lines. The Postini acquisition is a good case in point. When Google acquired them four years ago, they were one of the leaders in email filtering and Web security. Since then, Google has integrated these features into their browsers and email products. According to a PR rep, the full set of remaining email-related Postini services, such as Google Message Continuity, will continue to be sold and supported.

But this maturation process is tricky, as any parent can tell you. What kind of adult is Google going to be when it grows up? A surly teen that never comes out of its room, other than for meals? A spoiled child who always gets what it wants? A polished well-adjusted adult, with lots of friends and a nice house in the suburbs, or at least in a fancy San Francisco neighborhood? Or, as Reeves suggests, twins that eventually part ways, with one taking all the excitement and the other delivering more predictable performance and profits?

Google’s blog claims “this will make things much simpler for our users, improving the overall Google experience.” I disagree. While shutting down services is never easy, it isn’t about the experience; it is about saving money on under-performing assets, or reassigning engineering talent elsewhere, or because the original developers for these services have left the company and no one else has picked up the ball. Or perhaps because at its core Google is a cloud-based company and anything that it creates that requires a download to your desktop (like Desktop) is going to be marked as a potential short-timer. I just wish they could be more forthcoming in their announcements.

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