There is a lot of news this week talking about the “Amazon Echo Killer” called “Google Chirp”. I’m once again reminded why I avoid product naming like the plague, my rule is “that the only thing everyone ever agrees with when it comes to a new name is that the person who came up with it is an idiot”. Chirp, really?!? But I doubt Jeff Bezos is staying awake nights because I think Google’s offering is likely to fail in the market.
Here is why.
No Product Successes
Think about it, what was the last truly successful Google consumer product? Google bought YouTube so that doesn’t count, and that takes you to Android where it pretty much created an iOS clone and gave it away for free. Nest is struggling and Google bought it anyway. Google+ is pretty much a joke now and it isn’t hardware, and Google Glass was handled so badly Google effectively set the entire head-mounted display effort back about a decade.
So where is the proof Google can actually build a successful product?
No Retail Power
Amazon is the strongest online retailer in the world—significantly ahead of any other firm in the US and only really challenged in China. Google has no retail presence or power. Yes, there is a Google app store but Google Play is infamous for not making app vendors anything close to what they make from Apple’s offering. So, running against Amazon would seem to be a fool’s game because—at least in terms of selling stuff they build—Google isn’t even on the same planet.
In launching Echo, Amazon ran a broad mixed-media well-funded campaign. The big irony with Google (well other than that “do no evil” thing) is that it makes virtually all of its money from advertising and Google absolutely sucks at advertising. It is almost as if Google fundamentally doesn’t know how to do it or why to fund it. Granted, once in a long while it does something interesting, but it doesn’t last long and it typically is followed by really stupid stuff…or nothing. Amazon seems to know how to advertise. Well, they have to—they’re in retail. Google—despite making tons of money from advertising and having reasonably good analytics it sells to others—doesn’t appear to even be able to spell the word.
Amazon seems to build products and stick with them with the exception of the failed Fire Phone which clearly wasn’t well thought through. Google seems to love launching lots of products and then loses interest in them as it chases something else. Google has no attention span, seeming to move on once a product is launched. It often can take up to three years to mature a product in market with much of the work needed during the early parts of those years. Amazon has AWS, Kindle, and now Echo all of which were funded to success. After Google’s core offerings the list of products—particularly hardware products—which Google has launched (as opposed to bought as part of a merger) is almost non-existent, and when was the last time you saw a product launched from a company that Google did buy?
Wrapping Up: There Is No Foundation for Success
Google hasn’t demonstrated the ability to bring out a product like Echo and the name “Chirp” doesn’t exactly suggest a well thought-through offering (Granted, it’s a codename so hopefully Google will come up with something better for the actual product). Google’s history of poor attention span, poor execution, poor marketing skills and funding, and stream of failures suggests a firm that likely needs to do some major changes before even trying to launch a new product—let alone firing a shot across the bow of a firm executing much better, like Amazon. Google could create a cheap Echo knock-off but given how inexpensive Echo is already that doesn’t have the same potential as a strategy as it did against high-margin Apple.
In short, while I think “Chirp” will help validate the Echo segment, I don’t expect Google to prevail against its own inability to execute—never mind prevailing against Amazon.
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