Google: Engineers vs. Brand Loyalty

Almost a month ago Google changed its Google Reader product by removing one of its core features: social sharing. This feature allowed you to share items you had read in Reader with your ‘friends’ in Reader community. You could also follow them, comment on their items and so on. Since your comments and notes were only text, the communities were formed around type of ideas they embraced rather than looks. Furthermore, your semi-anonymous Reader identity made the concentration on context more emphasized. In my personal opinion, the resulting network enjoyed a much more intellectual atmosphere than other more sophisticated social networks do.

In order to promote their main socail network, Google Plus, they eliminiated Reader’s features with no provision of seemless migration. I can see this as an engineer’s assumption that new “toys” automatically attract new people. Marketing people might disagree, pointing to brand loyalty.

The engineering versus marketing approach Google took towards Reader reminds me of their Android operating system. In October Michael DeGusta of The Understatement summarized his observations about Android updates for devices shipped between 2008 and 2010 as a chart. His visualization shows a clear message: Google does not intend to support their older devices.

My own experience supports this horrifying observation. While I am not sure about internals of Android’s framework and drivers, the ending result for users like me has been shaky reliance on courtesy of application developers to include my device in their small list of supported devices.

My experience with iPhone and Windows Mobile/Phone have been clearly different. The fact that I still receive updates for my 4 years old device says a lot. But the problem with iOS is it only has one active line of devices. You can get a newer version of iPhone but that is your only choice. However, Windows Phone has been more welcoming. My observation was WP7 suffered a poor release process, including poor support of developers in the early days and taking months before releasing copy & paste capability in an update. I hope they don’t make the same mistake again, and I can safely return to Windows Mobile family!

Update: I ran into another article discussing how internal instant messaging products of Google are not “synchronized” with each other. In my opinion it shows lack of a unified standard layer between users and Google products. As a friend pointed out, Google has been more concerned about shipping new products faster rather than keeping them synchronized.