Waving Good bye to Google Wave: Lessons in positioning

A year ago, when it was launched, it was one of the most hyped products (service) from Google. It was hailed as the next generation of communication and the big G was promoting it as everyone will move away from regular email and will use Google Wave.

Today, it was announced that Google “doesn’t plan to continue developing Wave as a standalone product, but will maintain the site at least through the end of the year and extend the technology for use in other Google projects.”

Web browser Google Chrome displaying the googl...
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Last December, after using it for a while, I wrote a blog post, ‘Will Google Wave really become successful?

One of the major faults I noted was that the service was “not engaging enough”.

One of the visitors on the post said “It’s like an Instant Messenger merged with email, but what’s new?” Another user stated “MSN does chat better, SKYPE calls better, GMAIL/Yahoo email better. So, where is Google Wave? Nowhere.”

What the above comments show is that the product didn’t have a clear positioning in consumer minds. I guess it was a positioning problem from Google’s end too. They were unclear as to what exactly was this service positioned in the overall package of Google’s services.

Integration is the name of the game in today’s technology marketplace. However, the integration needs a clear positioning. In one of his presentations at Google itself, Seth Godin discussed this issue in details, that it’s not engineering innovation, it’s how your consumers perceive your product to be, is what matters. I keep on saying that ‘success is the most successful recipe for failure’ and I guess the success of Gmail and Gtalk brought this for big G.

Many companies prior have also failed in their line extension and integration efforts. For example, in mid 1980s, Xerox diversified into financial services industry by buying insurance companies and investment banks with one of the logic being, insurance will be a good extension service which will integrate itself with the sale of the costly photo copier. However, in about 5 years time the realisation hit fair and square with Xerox losing billions of dollars overall. By the mid 90s Xerox left the financial services portfolio and re-positioned itself as a document company. The whole diversification idea by integrating an ill-positioned product and service mix boomeranged.

There are many other positioning examples which boomeranged, including the video phone which was launched in mid 1970s and never caught the wave or similarly dishwashers and microwave ovens in Asian and Latin American markets. The consumer reluctance was a results of poor positioning more than anything else in these cases. And big G is no exception to this!!!

Google chief executive Eric Schmidt said it was hard to say why Wave did not strike a chord with a majority of users. “It’s a very clever product. You never know why it didn’t work.” He also said “Google will take what it has learned and apply it to something new”. I guess the biggest lesson learnt here is positioning than anything else.

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