Theres a growing consensus that Google Inc. has, as one critic recently put it, "lost its magic pixie dust" when it comes to creating cutting-edge features.
The latest example of a clunker is Google Video, a video download store that Google unveiled with much fanfare last week, but has since been soundly panned by some of Googles biggest supporters.
With each one of the negative reviews, many surfacing on Tuesday, is the notion that Google Video isnt just a one-time miss. Rather, critics say, its one of a growing number of recent failures suggesting that Googles usual Midas Touch is missing in action, and that should worry Google as well as its investors and those who rely on its products at home or work.
"For some reason, people keep expecting Google to do something earth-shatteringly iPod-like, completely transforming the way people think about the company," writes Andrew Goodman at Traffick, a search engine blog. "Do they have it in them? Maybe, but the new Google Video store certainly isnt it."
Ordinary products, let alone clunkers, are not what Googleites are used to. The leading Internet search destination has been on a decade-long streak of introducing jaw-droppingly unique features soon adopted by its competitors.
Its first innovation was its uncluttered search engine that was easy to use, which was a novel look and feel at the time.
Market-shaking features poured out of Google Labs like water from a fountain over the next decade. It seemed that almost on a weekly basis, there would be a new feature like AdSense, the revolutionary Google system for placing ads on Web sites, or Google Maps, with its unique way of maneuvering around a online map copied by others.
But in the last year or so have come some ordinary or even bad features. Some technologists suggest Google began losing its edge last year when in unveiled Google Talk, its instant messaging feature.
Usable? Sure. But its downright ordinary when compared to the leading IM features from Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp.s MSN Internet division and America Online that have managed to find a room on hundreds of millions of PC desktops, note many critics like Gary Price at Searchenginewatch.com.
And now comes an apparently worse effort in Google Video. Critics point out a number of problems.
There is a limited number of videos to choose from, download bottlenecks and a glitchy user interface. Another issue that has surfaced is not being able to authenticate an account, which is step one in the whole download process.
Perhaps the most significant problem is Googles decidedly archaic means of protecting the videos copyrights, said Searchenginewatchs Price. A proprietary video player and a username/password system frame up the way Google plans to protect the copyrights of videos itll soon start selling, according to new details emerging.
Whatever the concern, Google Video is leaving a rather bad aftertaste.
"Is it my imagination, or is this the first really bad product that Google has lunched?" wrote Dave Pell on his Web log Daventics.
In response to the criticism, a Google spokesman wrote in an e-mail to eWEEK that, "at Google we launch products as early in the development cycle as possible and iterate on products quickly based on user feedback. We very much welcome user input and were committed to building the best search experience for the user."
Google is being urged to regain its fine touch, or risk losing its major competitive advantage that has helped the company become one of the leading technology companies, rivaling even tech giant Microsoft.
"Part of Googles charm was that, even though all their products were in beta, many of them still had that wow factor," read a posting by Mike Masnick at Techdirt, a blog popular with the technorati.
"So, cruising around the early reviews of Google Video—mainly from people who tend to be Google supporters—suggests something has gone horribly, horribly wrong."
Editors Note: This story was updated to remove unclear language.