As I think about the tremendous success of Google, I don’t think about the details of what they’ve done (although the quality is certainly there) so much as I think about the bare fundamentals of why they’ve been so successful. It’s simple really: they’ve identified their target audience (Joe User) and tailored their webapps accordingly (keep Joe User happy about 80% of the time, exceed expectations more than not, etc.)
That sounds pretty obvious, right? Well, I think that taking that basic idea a bit further can give us a good indication of what exciting things may lie ahead — but first let’s briefly recall what Joe User likes to do. Let’s see: check e-mail, send instant messages, keep a calendar, crunch some numbers in a spreadsheet, and do some word processing. Oh yea, and then there’s that whole “search (and buy stuff) on the internet thing.’
Well, Google has searching with contextual advertising down cold, Gmail is a hit, Google Talk is gaining momentum, and Google Calendar’s recent release seems to be working out pretty well so far. But again, that’s all pretty obvious. Where it all gets a bit more interesting is when you start to speculate and examine the common threads of success.
For example, what if you tightly couple Google Calendar and Gmail together? That gives you a pretty good competitor for an office product like Outlook, does it not? I mean, the two products are there, so why not start to couple them together in an uber-convenient way? And then there’s Writely, a really slick online word processor that Google just bought and is redesigning, and although I haven’t heard anything official about it yet, I have to think that there’s something in the works for NumSum (or a similar product), which is a very responsive online spreadsheet. Put all of those together and you get a pretty good office do you not? Now tell me, if all of those apps were packaged and marketed accordingly, would Joe User not be pretty happy about 80% of the time?
We can’t go this far without at least briefly visiting the most obvious logical extreme — given a free online Google office suite and a few more accessory applications like a calculator, solitaire, stickies, etc., what if Google also designed a really cheap wifi-enabled laptop with an OS that was little more than a web browser (I wonder if they’d work with Mozilla’s Gecko code base to drive this whole operation?) and started pushing them out along with their own Wifi service? It doesn’t seem that far fetched does it? All of the ingredients are there, connection speeds are there, online storage is there — so what’s missing?