Google I/O: 3 Misses - InformationWeek

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Google I/O: 3 Misses

At Google I/O, Google arrived late to the music party and did not have enough to say about vertical industries and mobile commerce.

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After day one of Google I/O, I identified a few clear wins for Google users. Here's a look at the flip side.

In these three areas, Google didn't shine:

1. Google Play Redesign; New Music Service

Google has revamped its Play store. Much of this is based on making the store more personal, and once again this personalization is fed by Google+. Since I've only bought a few things on Google Play (beyond Android apps), and my Google+ social graph isn't all that robust, Play's recommendations for me were off the mark. I suspect it will get better in time.

But Google also added Google Play Music All Access, which combines your acquired music (uploaded into, or acquired from Google Play Music) with a brand new subscription service ($9.99 per month. Google is offering it for $7.99 per month, if you take the 30-day free trial, before the end of June). With free services like Pandora, and paid services like Spotify, Google is, again, a bit late to this party.

It's difficult to provide a recommendation after a very limited experience using All Access, but so far I like it. The ability to combine music I like with new music discovery, and then customize that discovery by eliminating or re-ordering tracks was a vast improvement over other services. I also liked that I could create a radio station based on a track I was enjoying.

Google worked with the major record labels to create a library with more than a million tracks. There's an Explore feature that provides recommendations powered by experts. There's so much to discover here, I've only scratched the surface. "Radio without rules," announced Chris Yerga, Google's Android engineering director.

This one is a miss not because it's lacking as a service. It's just that being late to the game puts Google at a disadvantage.

2. Vertical Industries Get Short Shrift

Since Sundar Pichai, Google's senior VP of Android, Chrome & Apps brought it up ... one of the things professionals love about their Apple devices is access to some superb applications. Pichai highlighted Google's work in education, but he admitted that Google's journey here really starts with students and teachers using Google Apps. Pichai bragged that seven out of eight Ivy League schools were running Google Apps (Dartmouth is the lone holdout). But Google is investing more in education, hoping to get more students outfitted with tablets or Chromebooks.

Pichai also announced Google Play for Education. It is organized by subject categories and grade levels, and includes a variety of applications with recommendations from educators.

The problem for Google, again, is that Apple has a big head start and is killing it in U.S. schools, breaking its own sales records in that vertical market. Apple even hosts its own education event, and there's an independent iPad Summit for the education market.

Similarly, developers have created some killer applications for medical professionals, and it's difficult to find a doctor who doesn't rely heavily on an iPad or iPhone.

While it's good that Google is addressing this shortcoming, Google Play for Education will make only a small dent.

3. Where's The Commerce?

After much fanfare around mobile commerce, the dominant mobile platform (Android) has an empty wallet so far. If Google plans to know all of our habits and obsessions, there's no better (or more lucrative) avenue to that knowledge than what we purchase. Because Google Wallet is still in its infancy, it probably doesn't come as a shock that there weren't any big moves at I/O around the product. But that's disappointing.

Google did have several payment sessions for developers, and I sat in on one that provided some instruction on linking loyalty programs into Google Wallet. Also, Google did make two somewhat understated announcements. First, it added an Instant Buy API. This provides signed-in users the ability to simply select Google Wallet without providing any additional information (like shipping and billing).

Second, Google added Google Wallet functionality to Gmail, which will let you e-mail money. This does not work from mobile devices yet, only from Gmail on the desktop; the recipient doesn't need to have Gmail, but needs Google Wallet.

Although all of these are welcome enhancements, we need to see more merchants and partners buy into Google Wallet. If Google is going to put its weight behind ideas like anticipatory search, conversational user experiences and social connective tissue between services, then Google Wallet must go there, too.

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