Google recently announced it is pulling the plug on five products—yes, the days of underwhelming Google Video are numbered—which brings its total of aborted projects to 25 in the last year and a half alone. Some of these products became obsolete, others were deemed expendable. Google claims this shows a renewed “focus” on “higher-impact products.” Perhaps. Or it may simply be more evidence the company continues to be ruthless with its own innovations. Google is a successful, self-immolating hydra: it generates ideas slightly more quickly than it kills them.
Much of Google’s bounty of products comes from the 20 per cent of undirected time it bestows on its employees. Narrow focus is practically antithetical to Google’s corporate DNA. The company that makes the vast majority of its money on its search engine is now developing computer glasses and a home entertainment system.
Even the best companies fail at times, of course. Few people remember Apple’s foray into gaming (the Pippin) or its first tablet, over a decade before the iPad (the Newton Message Pad). But Google seems especially sanguine about its duds. It lets consumers pick its winners and remains brutal enough to recognize its losers.