Does Google's Fickleness Benefit Users Or Google?
Yesterday, we covered the fact that Google has 86'd its much-ballyhooed Google Wave project, at least from the perspective of Google actively contributing to it. It will live on as an open source offering, but it's one of so many projects from Google that arrives with trumpet flourishes only to end up abandoned. Google has long been accused of throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks rather than carefully considering new projects to support for years. What should users make of this behavior?
It's wrong to completely criticize Google's tendency to start a lot of projects that it doesn't finish. That behavior is part of a remarkably fleet-footed and entrepeneurial undercurrent that is encouraged at the company and produces many innovations. Furthermore, Google has a very admirable tradition of freeing projects that it is abandoning into the open source wild, where others can fork them or continue development. You can't shake a stick at that.
And yet, Google's past is not grounded in certain directions that it is now headed in, and fickleness may be a problem going forward. Recently, we made the point that Google's complete abandonment of its Nexus One phones raises questions about how it will support its upcoming Chrome OS. Unlike Microsoft, Google doesn't have a long background in marrying hardware and software in products that Google itself will support. Support for the Nexus One phones was shaky at best when Google favored the project, then the company abandoned the effort.
How confident can I now be that Google will be responsive to my needs as it delivers its first operating system aimed squarely at computers and not mobile phones? Will Google just treat me as roadkill if the driver libraries in Chrome OS are insufficient to run my hardware? Will it show long-term support for its new operating system or turn a blind eye to it as it has with the once-hyped Nexus One phones, Google Wave, and so many other projects.
Google's fickleness is a mixed bag. It's part of an entrepeneurial effort at the company that deserves praise, but there are bad by-products that get swept right under the rug.