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Does Google Understand What Consumers Want?

Does Google Understand What Consumers Want?

At Google I/O, Google revealed a lot of furturistic technology: social music devices, wearable cameras and new search technologies. But does anyone want what they're selling? A computer that beams data into your eyeball? A circular orb you can bump with your phone? A Google page that creepily knows everything about you? There's no doubt that Google knows how to innovate, but do they really understand what consumers want?

I found parts of the Day 1 Keynote presentation exhausting. It wasn't just that Google doesn't know how to present information in a compelling way; they also don't seem to understand which information is most exciting to consumers. There was actually a moment during a presentation on Jelly Bean when the audience applauded and the developer looked surprised. "I've rehearsed this so many times it's hard to predict how folks will respond," he said to the audience. It's not surprising he didn't know which products would fly and which would flop: it sometimes seems as if the entire company is operating in the dark.

The Social Divide

Google is a mad laboratory, and it sometimes seems as if there's a huge gulf between the world in which these Silicon Valley nerds live and where the rest of the planet lives (not you, dear Android fan: you're probably a whole lot more clued in to the happenings of Silicon Valley, which is why you're reading this blog). Maybe that's why I felt uncomfortable seeing these cyborg-looking folks in the Glass presentation. Sure they're cool, but since when did consumers want these? Who cares so little about looking like a weirdo that they'll actually wear these all day long? 

Another awkward moment came when the Google team presented their new Nexus Q device. The premise seemed to be "Don't you hate when you come over to a friend's place and the music he's playing is total crap? Now you can change the music from your own phone! That'll be $300 please." Why not just take the connector cord out of your friend's iPod and place it in your own damn phone? Is that so hard?

A Privacy S**t-Storm

Another feature I praised yesterday but have come to find a bit worrisome. Google Now seemed awesome at first, but could generate backlash. A page on your phone that knows your next move? Is it convenient or creepy? To Google, the question never seemed to have popped in their head, but I can see a lot of people freaking out about the fact that their phone knows where they live, what they eat and where they're flying to. It's one thing that many free applications send our private data to remote servers, it's another to actually see that information on one page.

Does Google Get It?

Google makes a ton of products I love. I use Chrome, Google search and Google Maps almost constantly. I think Jelly Bean has some great features and I actually think the majority of folks are going to appreciate Google Now, even if it does generate some heated discussions about privacy. But Google has also released a lot of products that have me scratching my head. Wave, Google TV, Chromebooks...the list goes on. Now, I'd add Project Glass and Nexus Q to the list. They're futuristic ideas that don't seem to satisfy anyone's needs.

Some might argue that Apple has the market cornered when it comes to generating products that help people get what they want more easily. I think Google is good at that, too – just look at Google Maps, Google Docs and Google Calendar. But Google doesn't seem to understand if what they've made will fly or crash and burn. I think they just aren't paying enough attention to what consumers actually want. 

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  • While its an amusing gadget, I don't see this getting an "everyday" use out of the public (ie walking, or driving, while wearing distractive glasses is just going to cause legal ramifications later) ...

    I do see these possibly being used by the Police Force (or Private Security Co.) because of the "instant" surveillance" access (why bother looking at a bunch of monitors, when you can get instant intel at the turn of the head?) ...

    This sort of technology in the wrong hands would make me feel like my "right to privacy" has g-o-n-e (& I think Google should invest in more "everyday use" applications / widgets that would appeal to an Android Smart Phone user) ...

  • When was google it glasses I found they already put a Google Glasses in the Google Play Store see: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gau.go.launcherex.theme.goglasses

  • I do think Google's Glasses are an interesting and innovative idea but outside of a certain niche, I don't see them doing well in the near future -- purely due to looks. This may not be a dealbreaker for you, but I see it as a dealbreaker for the vast majority of people. It seems Google is more interested in re-creating a scene from their favorite Sci-Fi movie than creating a product that people actually want.

    If you are all so in love with the products Google unveiled, please e-mail me the receipts from your Nexus Q purchases. :)

  • Sometimes in the quest to be Innovative your Tech Lab begins with various Projects (some end up being best suited for Consumers, while others are best suited for the Private Business aka Government Sector) & it appears this is what we're seeing from Google (products for Consumers, products for the Government) ....

  • Dear Stephen, my only Android device is my phone the other tech i have includes Apple, Microsoft and others. I just admire companies that push the envelope including Apple. I also gave my reasons for being excited about the technology you were negative about. I actually only see them as derivations and advancements of current technologies, that i already use and enjoy. I don't often post in response to blogs, but i found your piece disappointing in comparison to the usual articles on "androidpit". I look forward to reading future articles by you on the site, i very seldom post in response, i just enjoy the different views, maybe it was just the tone of this item that grated.

    All tech companies have products that fail for whatever reason, including Apple (as mentioned by one of the posters above), writing on a Tech blog brings responsibilities.

    A line to sum up - To critique something is to Evaluate in a detailed and analytical way.

  • I will respectfully agree to disagree. :)

    Does Google know what consumers want? Apple doesnt release proucts that fail? Common bro. Your comparing apples to oranges here (LOL..apples :-D). Apple makes mp3 players, laptops, one phone, and one tablet. Sure they innovate, but their innovation is limited. Google's spectrum is MUCH wider. Self driving cars, 100GB per second internet connections, Project Glass, ect. THAT is the definition of innovation. When was the last time Apple tried something new? Apple TV? Yeah that went really well **eek**

    Google doesn't need to prove anything here, as they have more than demonstrated that they create products consumers need. Gmail, chrome, SEARCH, Android, Maps, Earth, Youtube...know any consumers that need and use those products?

    And naturally they will have projects that miss and never reach the light of day. Not EVERY idea can hit. But with so many wins, why not try new things? Michael Jordan used to only dunk, and when he started shooting that now famously known fadaway jumpshot, people thought he was silly and not "giving the crowd what they wanted". But then what happened? It became his signature move, and it never would have if he wouldnt have had the guts to try something new that he felt would bring his game to the next level. And the crowds ended up loving him for it.

    Google's engineers have freedom at Google to create, which is something Apple engineers WISH they had. Not only Android is open source, but Google's company mentality is as well, and that freedom is the reason they manage to earn 39 billion dollars a year with a "simple" search box.

    Does Google know what consumers want? Been there, done that...now its time for them to keep doing it, which is exactly what they're doing by constantly experimenting with new ideas and concepts.

  • Lol is this a troll article now?

    "Apple doesn't introduce products it thinks will fail"
    I have one word, Lisa, hell here's another, pippin, Apple have had many a failed product if anything it worse you haven't heard of them at least if glass fails you've heard of it

    Any way got any proof that glass, q and a smarter ai to backup your phone will fail and why or some counters to my comment?

  • kudos Steve not only on your blog but how you critique the products. I am no means a tech head or nerd or geek but am and have always been interested in what is available. Would I want a phone predicting my every move? No but if I didnt work 24hr shifts in my field I would probably not have a mobile phone. back in thd day when I was a good deal younger we had an XT AND AT personal computers I've used punch cards and mark sensor cards used basic and basic a fortran and cobol languages but one thing I know is that someone will want it because its the latest or fashionable cheers Lou from Brisvegas

  • Chris, I believe that the rabid Android fanboys have little to know objectivity when it comes to what Google does, and are just as culty about Larry Page as many Apple owners are / were about Steve Jobs. If you look at the actual products Google introduced at I/O, I'd say a good portion of them will fail. Apple doesn't introduce products it thinks will fail. Why does Google do so? Because they're out-of-touch with consumer's desires. They're genuinely excited about the technology they create, and I get excited about it too, but they just don't do the necessary market research. I'm not leaping to buy Google Glasses, Nexus Q or download the new Google+.

    Oh, and getting to write for a tech blog means you can be critical; in fact, that's kind of the whole point.

  • Seriously you don't understand ?. Google has always innovated and the market decides.
    Techies are the last to know what will really catch the mood. I love project glass, when i am travelling i love to connect to family and friends via my phone using skype n stuff, it's just a little awkward. Glass will make it seamless eventually.

    My phone knows where i am and what i might be doing next giving me useful info, really cool. I would like to know if there is a traffic jam on my way to work or what time the next train is on the platform i am on.

    Should you really be writing on a tech blog ?

  • I disagree completely I think they have target markets for each of their products and there doing the targeting well, glass for an instance they only mention in passing everyone wearing one all the time as a personal hud but they are, after Io, aiming it at sports types who will use it as a light weight recording option and business types who want to do hangouts whilst out and about this is backed by the name of the first run the explorers edition, as for the q I think that ones all about location I'm not sure where your from but In the US the tv box business is going well Google tv hulu and what not plus they have the full line up of play store options and the internet to back it up so I think there a social element addition to the tv box paradigm will be a hit, however I think it's a massive mistake to price it at that price regardless of where it's made

    Also Imo this Google Io has been the perfect example of Google understanding customers, ics was already the big step in the direction every one wanted for android and now jelly bean tweaks that even more plus a cut price tablet direct from Google and all the other tweaks to play, and the android eco system It's all very spot on and welcome, ie the rumored nexus line direct from Google win

    Lastly the fear mongering comments about now, but ott really if your that worried about privacy you will have your phone and data protected six ways from Sunday already or you will turn it off, after now first figures out you have aflight coming up and pops up with the directions to get there average Joe and people in the know won't care a bit about privacy.

    Sorry if that sounded ranty and fan boyish it's ment as a serious discussion lol

  • Yes. What were innovators thinking when they placed a camera/video on a laptop? Our designed flash memory sticks when a floppy was quite adequate? Now, I'm sure you think what I've said is quite silly....and it is. But I recall people saying that. So some of the innovations Google comes up with may seem over the top and currently useless to the consumer, but hey who knows what they will morph into?

  • +1

  • Ti Mo Jun 29, 2012 Link to comment

    I agree, great blog!

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