Should we fault Google for getting too big, or at least too big on the Web? More than 1 billion people use Google worldwide. Partly for this reason (the victim-of-its-own-success factor), Google is being persecuted (not prosecuted, yet) by the European Commission and the Federal Trade Commission for, among other things, favoring its Web services over others on Google.com. Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt testified before Congress Sept. 21 on these matters, with Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman and others making compelling cases for how Google is harming competition. The effect? Google is being portrayed as the second coming of Microsoft.
Android Update Alliance
Whither the Android Update Alliance, the special group of carriers that Android creator Andy Rubin promised back in May was coming soon? Word on the street is it's dead on arrival. Indeed, phone makers have been announcing their own Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade schedules of their own volition.
Companies are still making Android 3.2 Honeycomb tablets, but this tablet-tailored OS never gained much momentum. Honeycomb 3.0 was buggy as all get out on Motorola Xoom back in February and has never recovered. This is why Google has married the 2.x smartphone and Honeycomb branches to make Ice Cream Sandwich, a fine OS build.
Google Cuts Products
Google shed whole products and features to become leaner and meaner. Gone are Google Health, PowerMeter, Google Wave, Knol, the whole Slide social software unit, and many other services. While financial analysts sing the praises of Google CEO Larry Page's "more wood behind fewer arrows" approach, it's a stark pruning of some of the libertarian, free-wheeling projects for which Google is beloved. Driverless cars and the Google X lab notwithstanding, Google's experimentalism has been given a whitewashing with this trimming.
Whom do you know outside Google who owns a Logitech Revue or Google TV-powered Sony TV or Blu-ray Player? We have one and enjoy it, especially the Android 3.1 Honeycomb upgrade we recently received over the air. Unfortunately, sales are so poor that Logitech fired its CEO this past summer and lost millions of dollars on the companion box. Like so many Web TV products before it, Google TV is petering out. Here's to hoping for a resurgence in 2012, but we won't hold our breath. History is against it.
Samsung and Acer rolled out those Chrome OS-based Chromebooks this past summer, but they haven't sold well. Acer is said to be considering giving up on them. Frankly, we expected at least two or more new PC makers would launch notebooks based on the lightweight Web OS, but it hasn't happened so far. Aside from some marketing by Samsung in kiosks and in airports, Chromebooks appear to be going the way of the dodo bird. Prove us wrong Google.
Google misfired when it launched just a cloud locker for music in May and called it Music Beta. The real Google Music service launched in November, offering tunes for 99 cents to $1.29, and making them available on any desktop or Android device. Not bad, but Warner Music, the largest rights holder, is not on board. We're pretty sure people aren't shelling out tens of dollars for music they may have already gotten on iTunes. The implementation and Google+ sharing are pretty sweet, though.
Google Books Settlement
N.Y. District Court Judge Denny Chin shot down the revamped Google Book Search settlement in March, and the deal has been in limbo ever since, with Google trying to cut a sweeter deal for rights holders. Moreover, the Google eBookstore commercial service isn't exactly lighting up the e-book sales charts the way Kindle Store and Apple's iBookstore have.
One thing Google managed to do in 2011, which it couldn't do in 2010, was avoid major privacy scandals. The Google Buzz and the Google Street View WiSpy scandal blew up Google in 2010, putting it in the crosshairs of privacy advocates and attorneys general in 40 states. In the WiSpy scandal, Google Street View cars collected 600GB of user data from unsecured WiFi networks. Google in November made good on its promise to offer a way for users to opt out of having their wireless access point, or WiFi router, included in its location database software. However, it was complicated enough for high-tech media to cry foul and complain that average consumers won't have an easy time opting out.
Google Apps Loses LAPD
We close out the year with the most recent unfortunate episode. While Google Apps has had a solid 2011 overall, growing to be used by 4 million businesses, the platform suffered a blow when Los Angeles' Police Department backed out of its earlier agreement to replace its Novell GroupWise installation with Google Apps. That meant 13,000 of the city's 30,000 workers. Runner-up: Microsoft accused Google of lying about gaining a government security accreditation. Just some bad mudslinging, but not good PR.