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Google hardware needs a 'Labs' label
Google have acquired a bit of a reputation for abandoning products. Some deservedly (Allo, Clips, Google+) but some less so (Reader…
Google have acquired a bit of a reputation for abandoning products. Some deservedly (Allo, Clips, Google+) but some less so (Reader, Chromecast Audio and, dare I say, Daydream).
And, sure, we all get it: sometimes products need to go. Sometimes it is better to cut the losses and move on. But the thing is, do it too often and the user starts to doubt what you’re really invested in. And so will developers.
Take Stadia, for example. Google’s upcoming cloud-gaming platform seems impressive on paper and there are few companies, save Amazon and Microsoft, who have enough server backrooms to make such a project happen. Microsoft seem behind Google on their own cloud-gaming project and Amazon have nothing, so you’d think Google had a good chance of making it a reality.
But you know what I keep seeing on every comments section on every article about Stadia? The fear that Stadia, just like so many other products, will be headed to the graveyard not long after launch. In fact, Google’s biggest problem, it seems, is convincing consumers and developers that it is invested in Stadia for the long-term. Without that, they’ll struggle to get traction and traction is everything when it comes to new products.
Google’s graveyard is hanging over Stadia like the sword of Democles. People don’t doubt Google’s ability to produce; they doubt their ability to stick with it.
Now, what we don’t want is for Google to stop experimenting entirely with new products. Without the experimentation, Google wouldn’t have it’s Chromecast (now being used as the backbone to Stadia on the blog screen) nor it’s outstanding photography algorithms which it learned from its initial Google Glass project. Google have to keep on experimenting.
But it has to make it obvious.
Telling a good story with your products is essential. I think the public would be a lot more forgiving of Google’s abandoned experiments if it made it more obvious that those products were actually experiments. For example, if people knew that things like Allo and Glass were just meant to be one-offs rather than full-on product lines, they would probably be more forgiving when the product itself was let out to pasture and what was learned from that product became part of another more mainstream line. These experiments should openly advertise that they are Google Labs products rather than mainstream Google products. If Glass, for example, had been seen by the public as this weird, kooky experiment to put a computer on your face for a few thousand geeks who wanted to try it out, rather than an imminent cultural revolution threatening our notion of personal privacy, then I think people would not only have been more forgiving of the product itself but also more forgiving of Google when the device ended up going nowhere (although, to be fair, in the enterprise sector — as another experiment). On the other hand, if the first generation of Chromecast had been released as a Google Labs products (changing nothing about it other than the label under which it was released) and it had taken off as it has, then it should be allowed to drop the ‘Labs’ label and the public can trust that this is a product Google actually care about for the long-term.
The point is, if a product ‘fails’ under the Labs label, then it doesn’t harm people’s expectations of the main product lines.
So what if Google Labs’ Allo app doesn’t take off? It was just an experiment. So what if Google have not made serious moves in the music-creation world after their Chrome Music Lab project? It was just to show off what they could do. So what if Clips didn’t take off? It was just for fun.
But, on the other hand, if Google releases a product without the Labs label attached to it, such as Stadia, users and developers know that this is a serious project and the only question is can Google do it, rather than will they abandoned this immediately?
Just put a sticker on the box next time you throw a project at the wall to see if it sticks. That’s all it takes.