Google announced this week that it will combine Meet and Duo but has promised to keep the best features of both video calling apps in the joint venture. News like this isn’t a surprise anymore. The company is notorious for launching apps and services frequently and then mercilessly abandoning them. So much so that we have a Google Graveyard to document every short-lived project undertaken.
My gut reaction, and the reaction of many people who found themselves stuck in the Google roller coaster — particularly the messaging message—was to sigh of resignation. Are we really going to get the best of both apps? Can Google Teams do a merger like this without at least some dropping aside? I thought of course they would screw it up, because that’s how they work.
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But as I read more about the news in particular the edgeIn his report which includes a few select quotes from two Googlers, I had to correct my unusual reaction. I see more logic working though many of the messaging and calling apps and strategies we’ve had over the past decade or so (Google Talk > Hangouts > Duo > Meet and Chat > the new Google Meet). Finally, there is a sense that Google “gets it right”, despite the complex way the transition will occur.
The Google that was overflowing with ideas and lacked clear vision and direction no longer exists.
Crucially, though, this merger is yet another sign in a long, long line of decisions that seem aimed at cleaning up the remaining mess from Google that, from where I’m sitting, doesn’t really exist anymore.
I’m talking about the end of Google playing quickly and without issues with projects, releasing new projects every two weeks, killing the same number in the same amount of time. A Google that has kept realizing that projects it has already spent years on don’t fit into its broader strategy. Or worse, another in-house team has already implemented something similar without a user-facing connection between the two. Google that introduced Nexus tablets, then Pixel tablets, then Chrome tablets, then ditched tablets altogether, only to announce another Pixel tablet for 2023.
It looks like Google is on its way out. I think the tags have been around for a while, but I finally started putting them all together after I/O 2022. During the main conference, I felt a distinct change. Google has been talking about an ecosystem, about products and services working together, about all the things I, as a loyal Android user for 11 years, have wanted to hear. For once, there was a clear line between the different ads and a meaningful goal to make each product work with the rest.
There is a clear line between the various advertisements and a meaningful goal to make this product work with that product.
Like I said, the references have been around for a while:
- Google has killed the separate Nest app and moved all the controls in the smart home to the unified Home app.
- It has renamed G Suite to Workspace and created a tight integration of Gmail, Calendar, and Drive—the three essential tools for any employee and business.
- I gave up Play Music in favor of YouTube Music, because most people were already consuming their music on YouTube anyway.
- I ditched the horrible new Google Pay app and went for a better Google Wallet experience.
- It’s Sunset Inbox, his refined mail interface, and he’s decided to focus on the main product everyone uses – Gmail.
- You’ve ditched the standalone Trips app to feature a tour planning experience built into the search, because how do you plan your trips? You start by searching.
- It has integrated its visual search engine for the world, Lens, via camera, images, search, the web, and many aspects of its services.
- It’s ditching the side project of running Android Auto on phone screens and focusing on the in-car viewing experience instead.
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To be sure, many of these transitions (and countless others you probably forgot) didn’t go smoothly. And sure enough, there are still many disgruntled Play Music and old G Suite users. But when you look at the big picture, you can see how one concentrated product is better than two or three that do some of the same things, but not all of them, and don’t integrate well with each other.
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority
One clear manifestation of this new Google, which I’ve cited several times recently, is how quickly Google’s most important apps have adopted the new aesthetic of the materials they design. Remember when the original Material Design took over two years to make it onto a few Google apps? Or when Google Maps got dark mode in early 2021, a full two years after introducing dark mode support in the first Android 10 beta? In comparison, most of the apps were Material You-ready for the Pixel 6 series launch, a few months after the updated design language was introduced. The old Google could never get rid of this.
We’re used to seeing glimpses of collaboration between Google products, but ditch the surface and you’ll notice limitations all around.
Google is now focusing more on creating an ecosystem. Building on the success of the Pixel 6, it wants to integrate phones, tablets, watches, earphones, smart home devices, and more. They’ve had puzzle pieces for years now, but they haven’t worked very well together. We used to get glimpses of their collaboration, little hints that our phone and watch could talk to the same voice assistant or that our computer could send content to our TV, for example. But scratch under the surface and you’ll notice limitations. Google Assistant doesn’t have the same capabilities on phones and watches (not to mention speakers and computers). The YouTube experience is slightly different between phones, desktop, smart TVs, and streaming cases; I still don’t understand how you can’t create a queue on mobile, for example, but you can do it on the web or when your phone is sending.
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But during the I/O conference, Google showed off ways to move things between your phone and tablet. And just a couple of days ago, we saw an improved YouTube experience between phones and smart TVs. Close Sharing is slowly becoming a convenient competitor to Apple AirDrop. The Phone Hub in Chrome OS develops into a powerful link between your phone and PC. Fast Pair is the most popular accessory and bridges the gap between it and our phones.
Indian atmosphere / Android salad
Maybe I’m too optimistic. I might interpret the tags as I want. But I can see a more Apple-like approach here, in a good sense. There is a clear effort to standardize, simplify, plan ahead and stick to it, rather than going where the winds are blowing and changing strategies at any moment. There is a clear vision now, and I feel more confident in betting on its success than its failure. (And to be clear, I don’t expect great side projects to stop, but I don’t think they’ll be as front-runners as Inbox, Allo, or Daydream once.)
If the ship is off course, it has to sail a few miles in murky waters before returning to the original course.
But as we go down this path with the company, there are bound to be more abandoned projects and more unpopular decisions. The Duo and Meet merger certainly won’t be the last. If the ship is off course, it has to sail a few miles in murky waters before returning to the original course. And this is where we find ourselves now. Today’s Google is different, but it still pays for the mistakes of Google yesterday, and it will take some time before we see the real path we’re on.
Do you think Google is more focused now than it was in previous years?