Whats the Buzz?

February 17, 2010

 

We talk about the digital market in terms of its constant ‘evolution’, but somehow, this seems unhelpful; evolution doesn’t move that quickly. In terms of evolutionary consequences, the unrelenting pace of change is equivalent to a nuclear winter, our sun going supernova, a massive meteor strike, and an alien invasion, repeatedly coinciding.

It is difficult to keep track of what’s important, however, some moves, sometimes even relatively subtle ones, really are indicative of a significant step change in the market, and the content of Google’s 2009 Report represents one of these.

For the first time, Google has named ecommerce sites, social networking sites and vertical search engines like WebMD LLC as competitors. That Google now sees these elements as part of its primary competitive set has been seen to imply one of two things; either Google is branching out, or others are encroaching on what is traditionally its territory, and that of Yahoo and MSN. The reality is that both are true. Business drivers are causing the market to integrate considerably, which means more companies are bringing unfamiliar operations (and sometimes companies) into their folds. At the same time, new ideas and technological advances are leading to the diversification in other areas of the market (see iPad).

This constant cycle of norm- changing is confusing, but this new approach from Google seems to indicate that they are now fully prepared to look at the market in a different way; they are no longer the portal through which the rest of the internet operates, but rather, they are part of the whole, albeit a colossal part. Google has just launched GoogleBuzz, a micro-blogging-come-social-networking-come-email tool that has experienced more than a little backlash since its launch.  Whether it’s simply that they have rushed into something that isn’t quite a perfect fit, or that the offering simply isn’t good enough to make anyone take it up, the launch has been contentious. People don’t seem to appreciate that this new product they didn’t ask for is popping up in their Gmail, and nobody seems to have been wowed by its functionality.

This somewhat clumsy foray into social networking  is a poor start for a company who are looking to steal market share from dominant parties in somewhat unfamiliar areas. We have been spoiled, I suppose, by excellence in the advances we have recently come across (again, see Apple). We expect something outstanding when a new piece of technology is launched, something brand spanking new, yet intuitive enough that it instantly becomes un-live-withoutable. But we don’t want to see a reinvention of the wheel, we want warp drive.

Google is a giant, a behemoth that has done many things well for a long time. But outside of Search and Gmail, a great many of their own developments have failed to become the true game- changers that were predicted (see Google Checkout, Google Product Search, Google Chrome, Orkut, even Docs). As people change their online consumption habits and become more accustomed to seeking out information in different ways and getting more from one URL, it will be interesting to see how their reliance on Google changes, and how much of Google’s ever- changing pie those competitors can really eat up. Google will need to get back to its roots and start anticipating consumers’ needs again.

Claire

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2 Responses to “Whats the Buzz?”

  1. theinfluentials said

    Ouch! Yes I think they definitely missed the mark on Buzz – it will be difficult to pull that back. I LOVE Google docs though, so much handier than anything we use in offices – no more saving a million versions of every document because someone is editing the main one, for starters!

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