Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Google ending Wave / Google TV

If you haven't heard about Google Wave, don't worry, you're not missing much: it's already here and gone. It was basically a combination of e-mail, instant messaging, and a word processor. I will admit, when I first saw it, I was stoked, but that's because Google (like every tech company out there) made it sound amazing. But it apparently wasn't amazing enough to be kept alive. I read it in Google Blogoscoped a while back (I'm really bad at collecting thoughts and blogging when it's, you know, relevant, so here I am, months later), and I love how short and sweet the article is: Wave doesn't have a purpose. Well, I mean, it does. Kind of. Google basically threw it out there that it could replace e-mail, instant messaging (which frankly doesn't need a replacement, because it's all but dead), and even collaboration, like a wiki. But it just didn't, and here are a few reasons I believe why: 

1. Everyone has to Wave
This is not like Gmail, where you can log on Gmail but you can send e-mails to hotmail, yahoo, aol, and all the others. Every single one of your friends has to be on Wave. Now you may be wondering "What about Facebook?" It's true, since Myspace is basically incompetant nowadays, Facebook is the only social networking option. But notice, there's "social networking"; Facebook was created to fill a position that was already there, whereas Wave is trying to create and fill a position of an all-in-one website, which is much harder because you have to convince people that the position you're creating is worthwhile AND that the site you're creating is good at the same time. 

2. The "features" were not asked for, and were frankly annoying
I didn't know this, but apparently live typing was actually a feature of instant messaging back when it originally came out, but it was disliked so much that they made it where you have to press "Send" (I don't know how accurate that information is though). Whether that's true or not, it does make a good point: I don't always want the other person to read what I'm thinking as I'm thinking it. And not just because I'm pretty atrocious at typing, or I use Pidgin/Firefox to spellcheck for me. Sometimes I think about saying something, and then decide against it, and live typing doesn't let you do that.
And quite honestly, that goes for collaboration as well. I honestly don't think Wave was set up at all to work as a wiki, but even just multiple people working on one document at the same time....it sounds great in practice, but honestly, how many times are people going to use that? Doesn't it just make more sense to work on revisions, rather than both people fixing different places, trying to keep an eye on what the other person is doing? 

3. Some things should remain separate
Maybe it's the way Google went about it or maybe it's just that some services should remain separate, but I just found it confusing that everything was thrown together, instead of productive. Your mail/IMs/wikis/etc are all in one place, jumbled together like strands of Christmas lights. 

4. Google wasn't lucky
You have to admit: Luck plays a big factor in whether or not an online service takes off or not. Look at Twitter: It's probably the least impressive, simplest web service in the history of the internet, and it skyrocketed. And for good reason, because even though it was simple, it had a very distinct purpose, and on top of that, it got lucky. (Hey, if a handful of guys can get a website to take off while multi-million dollar company Google tries and fails, there's got to be some luck involved.)

Now you might have heard about a new Google product: Google TV. It's a box that you can hook up to your TV that will do....um....well, let's see what Google said:
"The coolest thing about Google TV is that we don't even know what the thing about it will be."
Wait, what? Google, haven't you learned? Release things with a purpose.

Honestly, it's nothing extremely new. I've seen commercials for HD-TVs that can do Facebook and Twitter and crap, and here's my opinion of it: why? Why are we bringing features that are meant for a computer to a TV? I just don't understand. Maybe I'm just old fashioned. I want my TV to watch TV shows. I want my computer to browse the internet. That's all. (Oh, and the whole "Apps" thing basically just makes Google TV like a cell phone with a giant screen.)

To put it simply, the way I see it is this: do you know what a TV is? A screen. A big ol' LCD/Plasma/LED screen. Do you know what a computer hooks up to? A screen. With HDMI the standard for all things HD, including both TVs and PCs, it's easy as pie to hook a PC up to your HDTV; I've done it myself. So my big question is, What is so special? I would understand if (a) Google TV was actually a TV instead of just a box, or (b) it could completely replace your current cable/dish, but instead, it's just "an add-on to your regular TV experience." [1] I still can't understand how people say that Google is going to threaten cable providers...with an addon. That's like saying a Firefox addon is capable of threatening Firefox for being a web browser. Plus, Google TV relies on networks, but passively; Google hasn't made any agreements with networks (to my knowledge), it just takes what they put online and brings it to your TV....without paying the networks anything. Why would the networks choose that over cable, which makes them money?

Google TV basically has two features: the full web on a TV, and searchable videos and show. The former is just dumb because the Web is not designed for the TV, nor do I want to surf it there. Have you ever used the Wii to surf the web? It's painful. A computer is better equipped to handle the web because that's what it does. And maybe you add a keyboard, add a mouse or something....but then you've just turned it into a computer, and then what's the point? (I think I already covered that.)
And the latter is a good idea....except it's executed poorly. They suggest using Netflix, Amazon and Pandora....all services that cost, and can be done through the Roku which has Hulu as well. They suggest Youtube, which is honestly a pathetic "feature" for "TV" (considering how amazingly strict Google is on copyrighted material on Youtube). And as for actual networks, I've heard that Google TV has already been blocked by several networks [2], and for good reason.....the networks wouldn't even make any money off of it! But even if for those that are unblocked, I have to speculate that I sincerely doubt that networks are allowing every episode of every show to be available, and if not, then what's the point? (Since that's what Google TV is advertising.)

I mentioned Hulu and that's quite honestly what I thought Google TV would be, but it's just not. Google TV just looks lazy to me, that it's not as well thought out or constructed as Roku, but they throw on Web browsing and the Android market, hoping to make it more "Wow!" It sounds like they basically want the community to create apps for it, and that is quite lazy, and honestly something I would expect from Apple, not Google. *coughiPadcough*

Those are my thoughts on Google's past fail and (what I believe will be its) future fail.

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