Success requires confidence and vision. Both are in short supply at Google right now.
Today we got our first clear look at the kind of effect the tablet market is having on the face of the tech industry. Advertising age put up a list ofthe most valuable brands in the world. For the first time in four years, Google didn't nab the top spot. Apple capped the list, thanks to a giant surge in value- 82%. Much of that growth is attributed to smartphones and tablets.
Google, on the other hand, is down 2% in market valuation. Despite the fact that 2010 saw Android become the top smartphone platform in the world. So what do we blame this shrink in value on? Bing's increasing push into search? Google's shift of CEOs?
Or the fact that Android tablets still have yet to prove themselves on the open market? The Xoom was a big bust, and LG's "G-Slate" sure hasn't upset any sales records. Great things are expected from the Samsung Galaxy Tabs, but there was a lot of hype for the Xoom too. We've seen company after company pour money into building Android tablets. But what we haven't seen is proof that any sort of buying market actually exists for these devices.
The last three years have seen Google's public image turn from the young, vibrant brand on the rise to yet another fat old giant, digging in to protect itself from a changing world. The threat of Facebook looms ever-present on the horizon and Android has proven just as fraught with trouble as it is with promise. Google isn't doomed by any means, but they've lost the invulnerability of youth. They've seen major launches- like Buzz- fail publicly. Every stab they take at the "next big thing" seems to fail these days.
But Apple has somehow managed to reclaim the energy of their start-up days. They march from success to success, every major product launch leads to broken records and mass industry praise. When they fail (Ping) it draws little attention. And their successes create whole new markets. Apple has a clear vision of the future, and every sure-footed step they take towards making it a reality earns them billions of dollars.
How can Google compete and regain their momentum? They need a clear vision. No more half-baked releases staged as desparate attempts to draw attention from a market entered into too late. And no more entering new product categories just because they exist. The first Honeycomb tablet should have been a full product, ready at launch to delight consumers. And this obsession the new CEO has with fighting Facebook needs to end, or at least be reined in. Google is a search company, not a social media company. If they want to fight Facebook's splinternet, they need to do it the right way- by offering something more than a closed loop can provide.