Really interesting to read Sergey Solyanik’s post about the reasons he chose to leave Google for the greener (?) pastures of Microsoft. It’s just one man’s opinions but as Phil commented over on ZDNet, it does suggest some things in relation to Google’s ability (or otherwise) to cut it in the enterprise world.
Sergey points out a number of positive aspects of the Google structure – most of these relate to management practices, the flatter hierarchy (compared to Microsoft) and the team decision making processes.
Sergey’s reasoning for leaving Google is interesting. As he says;
Google software business is divided between producing the “eye candy” – web properties that are designed to amuse and attract people – and the infrastructure required to support them. Some of the web properties are useful (some extremely useful – search), but most of them primarily help people waste time online (blogger, youtube, orkut, etc). All of them are free, and it’s anyone’s guess how many people would actually pay, say $5 per month to use Gmail. For me, this really does make the project less interesting if people are not willing to pay for it. This orientation towards cool, but not necessarily useful or essential software really affects the way the software engineering is done. Everything is pretty much run by the engineering – PMs and testers are conspicuously absent from the process. While they do exist in theory, there are too few of them to matter.
To paraphrase, Google’s offerings (with the exception of one or two) are Web 2.0 eye candy with no real long term business viability or any real plan to move towards monetisation – it all still rests on the original Google advertising model which, while very lucrative at present, is a risky strategy to have.
Clearly the big money to be made in software is through enterprise sales and it is in relation to Google’s chances within enterprise that Sergey’s comments are especially telling. As he says;
I was using Google software – a lot of it – in the last year, and slick as it is, there’s just too much of it that is regularly broken. It seems like every week 10% of all the features are broken in one or the other browser. And it’s a different 10% every week – the old bugs are getting fixed, the new ones introduced. This across Blogger, Gmail, Google Docs, Maps, and more. This is probably fine for free software, but I always laugh when people tell me that Google Docs is viable competition to Microsoft Office. If it is, that is only true for the occasional users who would not buy Office anyway. Google as an organization is not geared – culturally – to delivering enterprise class reliability to its user applications.
As I said, this is just one man’s observations, but it is worrying from a long term prospect perspective for the organisation. Of course there are many that say Microsoft is perennially out of touch with the real world – and this comes back to the old questions – is it easier for MS to move to more Web 2.0 savvy model than it is for Google to move towards enterprise? Reading the above it’s hard not to think that MS are closer to the “sweet spot”.