Government // Mobile & Wireless
News
7/21/2011
06:15 PM
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
Twitter
Google+
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Google Closes Google Labs

CEO Larry Page says the company is putting "more wood behind fewer arrows."

Top 15 Google Apps For Business
Slideshow: Top 15 Google Apps For Business
(click image for larger view and for full slideshow)
Google CEO Larry Page has been cleaning house at the company he co-founded. During his company's recent earnings conference call and in a transcription of his remarks on that call posted to Google+, Page described his campaign for greater corporate focus as putting "more wood behind fewer arrows."

Or if you prefer a pasta metaphor, Google is throwing less spaghetti against the wall in the hope that some of it will stick. Until recently, that would've been a fair way to describe Google's product strategy, outside of its core search advertising business: The company's engineers deployed interesting and often unexpected software and services, often with relatively little direction from above, and hoped that people would use it.

But as the company has marshaled its resources behind broad strategic initiatives like search and ads, Android, Chrome, and YouTube, Google+, Local, and Commerce, it has become less patient with projects that lack an obvious connection to its core interests.

After taking over for Eric Schmidt, now the company's executive chairman, Page discontinued Google Health and Google PowerMeter. On Wednesday, there was a new casualty, Google Labs.

Bill Coughran, SVP for research and systems infrastructure, broke the news in a blog post titled to echo Page's wood-and-arrow evocation of corporate focus.

"While we've learned a huge amount by launching very early prototypes in Labs, we believe that greater focus is crucial if we're to make the most of the extraordinary opportunities ahead," Coughran explained.

Coughran said that in many cases this will mean ending Labs experiments; in other cases this will mean integrating experiments with more established products. The trouble is that Google hasn't specified which experiments will be discontinued and which will survive outside of the Labs environment, apart from those that are Android apps, which will live on in the Android Market.

Coughran said that Google will provide more specifics at a later date via the Labs site.

In apparent awareness of the inadequacy of its ill-defined product purge, Google has amended Coughran's post to note that in-product experimentation channels, such as Gmail Labs and Maps Labs, will remain unchanged. Presumably Search Experiments, Calendar Labs, and YouTube TestTube, due to their product focus, will also survive in some form. And possibly Google Code Labs too, the home of a variety of experimental APIs.

So which Labs experiments are candidates for extinction? Google Body, Google Scribe, or maybe Google Image Swirl? What about Aardvark, vark.com, the question-answering service acquired by Google in February last year and presently languishing in Labs, or Swiffy, Google's recently introduced Flash-to-HTML5 conversion tool? We will have to wait for Google to declare its intentions.

Coughran has made it clear that Google isn't forsaking rapid innovation. But future innovation from the company is likely to be narrower in scope than it was in the past, back before it became apparent that some of the world's information would defy Google's efforts to organize it and make it universally accessible.

"It is easy to focus on things we do that are speculative (e.g., driverless cars) but we spend the vast majority of our resources on the core products," Page said to reassure investors. "We may have a few small speculative projects happening at any given time, but we're very careful stewards of shareholder money--we're not betting the farm on this stuff."

Page declared that everyone at Google wants to create services that people around the world use twice a day, "just like a toothbrush."

Apple CEO Steve Jobs would never employ such a prosaic comparison. But perhaps Page, as his CEO hat becomes more comfortable, will come to recognize the value of more florid and ambitious descriptions of his company as a way to compensate for reining in the experimentation that made Google really interesting.

See the latest IT solutions at Interop New York. Learn to leverage business technology innovations--including cloud, virtualization, security, mobility, and data center advances--that cut costs, increase productivity, and drive business value. Save 25% on Flex and Conference Passes or get a Free Expo Pass with code CPFHNY25. It happens in New York City, Oct. 3-7, 2011. Register now.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest September 24, 2014
Start improving branch office support by tapping public and private cloud resources to boost performance, increase worker productivity, and cut costs.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.