It was so incredibly subtle, and nobody noticed it, but it just happened. Google went from early adopter to fast follower. Instead of bringing out market-changing products that disrupt, they’re reacting to other’s innovations. As evidence I offer:
- Google Reader, a superior product produced as a response to Bloglines, which I abandoned for the Google version;
- OpenSocial, a clear reaction to the rise of Facebook, and an inability to make Orkut as successful as Facebook; and
- Google’s purchase of YouTube, which came about because they couldn’t beat them at Google Video.
This is the natural way of companies, and is a pattern Microsoft followed as well. It doesn’t mean we won’t see innovation from Google, only that it’s going to be rarer. In particular I think the following things are long term going to be areas in which people say, "Wow, Google did that and nobody else was working on it/buying people in that space at their size":
- GrandCentral: nobody at their size is in this space, and I’m in love with the service;
- Google Booksearch: you can’t do anything truly innovative without pissing someone(s) off; and
- Google Earth: there’s mapping sites, and then there’s Google Earth. Not even close.