What Google Should Do in 2012

January 3, 2012

I missed last Wednesday's 2011 Year in Review episode of This Week in Google because I was on an airplane somewhere over New Mexico. That doesn't mean I don't have a list of things I'd like to see Google do in 2012.

In no particular order:

Release a killer tablet. Price this tablet head-turningly less than the iPad, make it run Ice Cream Sandwich flawlessly, and offer completely sandwiched-out apps that absolutely scream for the big screen. Forget trying too hard not to offend other Android device manufacturers. Googorola should get this tablet exactly right, down to every last ever-loving detail, with the hardware and the software teams living, breathing, eating, and sleeping together on it. Get at least a few third parties who make apps that cover the major categories of things people do on tablets (news browsing, gaming, social media) to play along before launch, like the NY Times, Twitter, Angry Birds. Google has their core apps covered: Gmail, Calendar, and Maps already appear to be upgraded for ICS and therefore should look fantastic when they unfold on a tablet screen. Don't use chase scenes and explosions or even robots in the advertising. Cash in on Google's brand loyalty and recognition and market it simply as "the Google tablet." The messaging should be: If you use and love Google, this is your tablet.

Stop talking about Google TV and start shipping. The latest Google TV update to Honeycomb came so many months late that it's already behind a version. With the exception of Netflix and Plex (which is total nerdware), the GTV app selection and functionality is pitiful. Google needs to do whatever it takes to get the ABC/CBS/NBC player apps for GTV done, so the main selling point for Google TV—a browser on your TV—isn't completely undermined by ABC/CBS/NBC.com's "Sorry this episode is not available for your device" message.

Beyond Android, more broadly I'd like to see Google:

Raise the bar for what's ready to ship. Google's always taken the release-early-iterate-quickly approach to shipping software, and it's worked very well for them. But sometimes it backfires. Honeycomb was not ready to ship. G+ business pages was not ready to ship. Google+'s community rules around real names was not ready to ship. Betas can be shipped too early. In 2012, I'd like to see Google hold back more and fully bake products before they release.

Aggressively design for users first, not nerds. Siri de-nerdified voice interaction on a mobile device. Google had the opportunity and the technology to do this with Android's Voice Actions and they didn't. Suddenly Google is playing catchup on a technology they had a huge initial jump on. Speaking of...

STOP playing catchup. Google' mobile and social product releases in 2011 felt like they were chasing the taillights of Apple and Facebook. Stop chasing and start forging new paths with innovative user interfaces designed for humans. Give us something new. Be clear and opinionated about how it differentiates itself from every other offering, and ship when it's ready, on your timeline, not someone else's.

Compromise less. Play hardball more. Google needs to throw their weight around more when it comes to product. For example, every device that runs Android and carries Google's name on it should guarantee operating system updates within a reasonable amount of time (reduce 18 months to 6), should NOT ship with un-uninstallable crapware, and it should not disable core Android features.

"Open" doesn't necessarily mean every feature gets included, it doesn't necessarily mean design-by-committee, and it doesn't necessarily mean cheap and mediocre. Google is in a position to prove this. In 2012, they need to work harder to do so.