(I posted the below Quick Analysis of Google Buzz in a Google Buzz post [note? entry?] last night. I’m not sure that’s really the best use for Buzz. Anyhow, it’s re-posted here for full blog glory. There’s more linking, inline pictures, and some slight additions sloshed inside [square brackets] -Coté)
I’ve used Google Buzz for one day, starting on my iPhone, and this a review in the only sane way: in Google Buzz.
Well, it’s better than Google Wave. For business, I suspect existing Enterprise 2.0 offerings (and even SAP’s 12sprints) runs circles around Buzz in the area of productivity, but I haven’t used either enough to know first-hand. They can probably copy some features and ideas from Buzz. For consumers, it seems a bit early: just go there if all your friends do.
The technology and implementation are very nice. I’m especially annoyed about claims of what it’ll be in the future as it’s hard to get a feel of how Google prioritizes its road-map and what personal/work technologies I can make based on the “product management” they do. As example: Google Voice, dodgeball, &co.
Doesn’t Google have enough money to buy every user a pony?
For me, the primary benefit of Buzz so far is that it’s integrated into one place. The “Google Suite” is done much better on the iPhone than in the web UI. In fact, Google’s iPhone UIs put their web UX to shame. Each time I use a Google service on the iPhone, I want to just live in it: it makes sense and feels good. (I appended a photo, I have no idea how it shows up in this crazy thing.)
I really like this “suite” direction. Tighter integration between email, IM, document/presentation editing, Twitter, blogging, note taking, video & podcast publishing, to do list management, calendering, and all the other stuff I do with computers and the Internet would be awesome. The integration in my RedMonk Google Apps Google rolls along like a mindless cow heard towards that. If only there was some cowboys to get them to market.
The issue with committing to a suite vs. best-of-breed is older than punch cards. The risk is that you lock into a software offering that fails to innovate, becomes too inflexible to match your evolving needs, and then to top it off, charges you more and more money. We call that “enterprise software” – HA! – I kid, I kid. But seriously, with that cow heard product management feel, I have a cautious view of locking into Google.
Geolocation is pretty cool, but I’ve yet to find mainstream uses that are widely compelling. I used Foursquare for a long time, that was fun until it got boring. Now I use Gowalla and I like being able to pick up Beatniks and watermelons when I’m getting a burger and filling my gas tank.
But, so far, I haven’t gotten much out of geolocation. Coupons would be nice, sure. And if all of my friends – not just my fellow nerds – were using it as much as all my friends use Facebook, I might be able to use geolocation for things like “I want to go get a drink, who’s at a bar right now?”
APIs and OpenWhatever
There were early hopes among us RedMonks that Google Wave’s big deal would be as some API/data center. The protocol was going to be thing. The problem with Wave was that:
- not everyone used it
- it didn’t really do much, and
- UI responsiveness was both weird and slow
Google Buzz seems to be avoiding these problems: the way it auto-discovers people to follow – your social graph or whatever the round-corner cool kids are calling it now-a-days – is fantastic [though the usual privacy freak-outs are cropping up]. And because “everyone” has and uses [or at least looks at] a GMail account, there’s tons of people in there – including many of my non-technical friends, who’re always lacking from the newest Social Distraction Service du jour. There does seem to be plenty of APIs and feeds, but the real test for “open data” will be how well Google Buzz integrates with Twitter [marginally well, though not real-time so far], Facebook, and existing offerings.
One user’s “unique feature” is another developer’s “lock-in.”
I think we’re all beyond this whole “don’t be evil” schtick. Us users get that we’ll have to trade lock-in and closed systems for functionality in the rainbow-land of the cloud. It’d be great if someone (Mozilla?) proved us wrong – rather, brought the closed/open cycle back to open. Until then, it’s iPhone and social-graph lock-in forward. And I got no problem with it: if it helps me do my job, bully!
Google’s Dear John Letter to Facebook
Speaking of “do no evil,” doing business war with other tech companies is clearly not seen as “evil.” Without a doubt, Google is going after page views and eyeballs (man, I hope we start using that term again: the sheer douche baggery of it does so much to highlight what all this Web 2.0 stuff tends to reduce to) that Facebook, Twitter, and others hot-n-trendy .com sites are getting. If you end up spending time in Buzz that you’d otherwise spend in Facebook, it’s a win for Google.
I’ll be curious to see if/how Buzz sucks in Facebook data and interactions. I have no idea if that’s “allowed,” but a blocked attempt to do that would be a great Cold War 2.0 move on Google’s part: remember how well that Google Voice iPhone App thing went? It helped get the FCC on AT&T, roiled everyone in the US up at an opportune time (when the AT&T network was terrible [when?]), and was a nice PR blow at Apple. If Facebook tries to block Google from stealing eyeballs through open APIs, it’s all gravy for the GOOG.
[And, of course, you just have to look at the first (and often after that) message you're greeted with on the iPhone to see the Apple Dear John:
As Google did with their Google Voice app - which is just dandy too - they're subverting the "proper" path for iPhone interfaces, using an iPhone tailored web app instead of a native iPhone app. Though, as I recall when the iPhone first came out, before apps, that was the API right?]
Unfortunately, the unified UI is ruined by one of Google’s largest problems: too perfect of identity collapsing and SSO. I actually have two identities I use with Google: my personal account (GMail, Reader, Buzz, etc.) and my RedMonk account (Google Apps with email, docs, analytics, Wave, Voice, etc.). Bouncing between these two identities is tedious and does weird things. Like, I have to logout of Google Reader (personal identity) to access my RedMonk Google Analytics (RedMonk account).
With something like Google Buzz which seems to be an uber-interface to layer on-top of everything, that identity management schizophrenia becomes a problem.
Don’t get me wrong. The next-gen SSO outfits like Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. have done is phenomenal and puts enterprise efforts of late to shame [though, now that Google's done it's Dear John to Facebook, we'll see how much more identity rainbows and sandals are left in the cheer bucket]. I credit the work of the OpenID and OAuth folks to this – people like recently Google hired Chris Messina [who's been active and helpful in Google Buzz] – who figured out how to bushwhack through what become a stymied standards practice, instead launching their own de facto efforts.
Action Plan: Users
Honestly, if I were just a casual user [a "civilian," as I often put it], I wouldn’t worry too much about Buzz at the moment. I mean, you’re already spending all you time in Facebook, right? As a user, the only thing you should worry about is where all your friends are. If everyone is suddenly in Buzz, go there. Don’t waste your time being an early user of a service and doing free marketing and evangelizing for them. Like the man says, you are not a gadget.
Action Plan: Business Users
I’m not sure Buzz is ready for business users. For one, it doesn’t seem to be in Google Apps and unless you really know what you’re doing, you don’t want to mix your personal Google identity with your work identity. For small teams, it might be fun, and the tight integration with GMail might mean that “everyone” will actually use it.
RedMonk – us nut-jobs that do lots of business understanding how to apply emerging technologies – has struggled to use anything but email as a reliable collaboration point. So far, the only things that stick – and we’ve tried all sorts of things, try me – are email, IM, Twitter, and Google Docs. All of the failures puked on email and treated it like some technology leper. So far, Buzz things to actually be friendly with email rather than Waving good-bye to it.
The technology is pretty awesome looking, and if there were integrations with things like Salesforce and other business process backends (“ERP”), along with security and whatever – the whole activity streaming thing going on here could be cool, assuming you’re using Google Apps. But, again, that 12sprints thing from SAP looks cool, and there’s been Enterprise 2.0 offerings trying to crack this bad-boy for years [including Vulcans].
Action Plan: Vendors, ISVs, etc.
Study the technology, the open APIs, and the UX Google is going for here. Find out what can be copied, what you can do better, and if it makes sense for your open/closed API risk analysis (ooo! what’s that concept play-out like?!) integrate with it if it’s cheap enough. Why not?
The biggest challenge for tech vendors when it comes to Google (and Apple) is getting over the distraction they provide among your customer bases. “Why don’t you do this?” or “I’m just going to wait until Google/Apple does it.” Be prepared to knowledgeable talk about these things and get people over that distraction – don’t just be dismissive, that’s like telling someone who just bought an expensive piece of art that they have no taste.
More broadly, watch the buzz around this offering, with close attention to what it means for market demand about “activity streams.” End-users want their generic, 9-5 white collar work to be more like their public web experience, but IT buyers in companies typically don’t give a damn. Cloud computing got over that hump, did you notice?
Enterprise 2.0 concepts have struggled (startups can throw out numerous cases that have gotten over the Transom of Nonplussed IT Buyers, so it’s getting more encouraging). Someone like Google can make the conceptual market for something like activity streaming where-as corny-named startups can’t [or, at least, have a tougher time]. If Google pulls that off in this category, bully for everyone. [Folks like IBM, Microsoft,SAP, and other elder companies that the Nonplussed folks get, uh, "plussed" by can help here too.]
Those cow herds will probably be easy to run circles around if you’ve got a fast enough pony.
Disclosure: RedMonk has lots of clients [relevant here, IBM, SAP, Microsoft, etc.] and though this is posted to my personal Google identity rather than my RedMonk one (see what I’m talking about with them problems?) [though, not in this cross-posting, of course], it’s good to check our client list to see if I’m talking out of my wallet instead of my brain.