Today’s Google is still paying for yesterday’s Google mistakes
This week, Google announced it would combine Meet and Duo, but promised to keep the best features of both video calling apps in the joint venture. News like this is no longer surprising. The company is notorious for frequently launching and then ruthlessly abandoning apps and services. So much so that we have a Google Graveyard documenting every short-lived project he took on.
My instinctive reaction, and that of many people who have found themselves stuck on the Google roller coaster – especially the messaging one – has been to sigh in resignation. Will we really get the best of both applications? Can Google teams even pull off a merger like this without at least dropping one? Of course they’ll screw it up, I thought, because that’s their modus operandi.
Buyer’s guide: Everything you need to know about Google products
But as I read more about the news, especially The edge‘s report that includes some choice quotes from two Googlers, I had to rectify my knee-jerk reaction. I see greater logic at play despite the many messaging and calling apps and strategies we’ve had over the past decade (Google Talk > Hangouts > Duo > Meet and Chat > the new Google Meet). There’s finally a sense that Google “gets it,” despite the convoluted way the transition will happen.
The Google that was overflowing with ideas and lacking in clear vision and direction is no more.
But above all, this consolidation is just one more sign in a long, long series of decisions that seem to be aimed at cleaning up the residual mess of a Google that, from where I’m sitting, doesn’t really exist anymore.
I’m talking about the end of a Google that played fast and loose with projects, launching new ones every two weeks, killing as many in the same amount of time. A Google that kept realizing that the projects it had already spent years on no longer aligned with its larger strategy. Or even worse, another internal team had already implemented something similar without any user connection in between. A Google that introduced Nexus tablets, then Pixel tablets, then Chrome tablets, then ditched tablets altogether, to announce another Pixel tablet for 2023.
This Google seems to be on its way out. I think the signs have been there for a while, but I finally started putting them all together after I/O 2022. During the main conference, I could feel a clear change. Google was talking about an ecosystem, products and services working together, and everything that I, as a dedicated Android user of 11 years, wanted to hear. For once, there was a clear line between the various announcements and a deliberate goal to make each product work with the rest.
There is a clear line between the various announcements and a deliberate goal to make this product work with this product.
As I said, the signals have been there for a while:
- Google removed the separate Nest app and moved all smart home controls to the consolidated Home app.
- He renamed G Suite to Workspace and established tight integration between Gmail, Calendar and Drive – the three essential tools for any employee and any business.
- He ditched Play Music in favor of YouTube Music, since most people were already consuming their music on YouTube anyway.
- He went back to the terrible new Google Pay app and opted for a better Google Wallet experience.
- He ended Inbox, his duplicate email interface, and decided to focus on the main product everyone uses: Gmail.
- It ditched the standalone Trips app in favor of a search-integrated trip planning experience because how do you plan your trips? You start by searching.
- It has integrated its visual search engine for the world, Lens, across camera, photos, search, web, and many facets of its services.
- It ditches the side project of running Android Auto on phone screens and instead focuses on the car display experience.
Related: Android Auto problems and how to fix them
Of course, many of these transitions (and countless others that I’ve probably overlooked) didn’t go smoothly. And of course, there are still many unhappy users of Play Music and G Suite. But when you look at the big picture, you can see how one focused product is better than two or three that do some of the same things, but not all of them, and don’t integrate well with each other.
Jimmy Westenberg/Android Authority
A clear manifestation of this new Google, and one I’ve cited a few times recently, is how quickly major Google apps have embraced its new Material You design aesthetic. Remember how it took over two years for the original Material Design to be available in a few Google apps? Or when Google Maps got a dark mode in early 2021, two years after dark mode support was introduced in early Android 10 betas? By comparison, most apps were Material You ready for the launch of the Pixel 6 series, just months after the updated design language was introduced. The old Google could never have pulled this off.
We used to see glimpses of cooperation between Google’s products, but scratch below the surface and you’ll notice there were limitations everywhere.
Google is now more focused on building an ecosystem. Building on the success of the Pixel 6, it wants to integrate phones, tablets, watches, headphones, smart home devices, and more. He’s had the pieces of the puzzle for years now, but they haven’t worked together very well. We used to get glimpses of cooperation between them, little hints that our phone and watch could talk to the same voice assistant or that our computer could stream content to our TV, for example. But scratch below the surface and you’ll notice there were limits. Google Assistant doesn’t have the same capabilities on phones and watches (not to mention speakers and computers). The YouTube experience is slightly different between phones, desktops, smart TVs, and streaming instances; I still don’t understand how you can’t queue on mobile, for example, but can on the web or when your phone is streaming.
We discuss: Is Google’s ecosystem growing too fast?
But during I/O, Google showed ways to move things between your phone and tablet. And just two days ago, we saw an improved YouTube experience between phones and smart TVs. Nearby Sharing is slowly turning into a real competitor to Apple AirDrop. Chrome OS Phone Hub is evolving to be a solid link between your phone and your computer. Fast Pair is more ubiquitous among accessories and bridges the gap between them and our phones.
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
I may be too optimistic. Maybe I interpret the signs as I want. But I can see a more Apple-esque approach here, in a good way. There is an obvious effort to consolidate, streamline, plan ahead and stick to the plan, instead of going where the wind blows and changing strategy at any time. There is a clear vision now, and I feel more confident to bet on its success than its failure. (And to be clear, I don’t expect the cool side projects to stop, but I don’t think they’ll be front and center like Inbox or Allo or Daydream once were.)
If a ship deviates from its course, it must travel a few miles in troubled waters before resuming its original course.
But as we go down this path with the company, there are bound to be more abandoned projects and more unpopular decisions. The Duo and Meet merger will surely not be the last. If a ship deviates from its course, it must travel a few miles in troubled waters before resuming its original course. And that’s where we find ourselves now. Today’s Google is different, but it’s still paying for the mistakes of yesterday’s Google, and it’ll be a while before we see the true path we’re on.
Do you think Google is more focused now than in previous years?