does anyone know where google is going next?

Honestly, does anyone have any clue as to what google is doing, or what its priorities are in terms of products and services?

There, I got to the point.  So now allow me to preface…I know that Google is working on a ton of things at once and that none of them are easy.  It’s not easy to make something like Google docs.  So I know it takes time, and that there are going to be lags that make it seem like Google is disjointed when in fact each product team is working diligently on their little areas or features or whatever.  But I still can’t figure out why they have their heads so far up their butts.

Also, please note that I don’t think of myself as either a Google hater or a fanboy.  Google has some good stuff, and they are pretty darn creative.  But they also have their flaws.  My issue, here and now, is that they clearly have resources of amount X, and that they have shown at least a few times when they have not spread that amount effectively.  I’ll give examples of both great and terrible allocation of resources.

Let’s start off positive – Google Voice.  FCC “are you a telephone company” issue aside, I was really annoyed when Google bought Grand Central and then there was a giant sucking sound as it apparently turned into vaporware.  Here was this cool service that allowed me to get a phone number and route it all over the place.  Very nice.  But then, for a long time after the acquisition, there was nothing.  No developments, no announcements.  And not many rumors (at least not that I know of – I’m sure there were some).

But then Google Voice emerges, and I must admit I’m impressed.  Single phone to multiple numbers – great, still there.  Visual voicemail, sent to your gmail as a transcript – wow (even though I get some funky stuff).  The ability to switch phones on the fly as you move from home to car to work?  Wow.  Overall very slick?  Damn straight.  I use this service as my one and only phone number now, and even turn it on for my work phone when I’m home, but off during the day.  The logic is that if I get a personal call during the day I can choose to leave it be or not.  But at night, when I want all kinds of numbers to ring everywhere, I just turn it on.  That I can do this by just clicking on a website?  Wow again.

But…let’s look at Google Apps.  Theoretically, this is a single suite of products – Docs, Calendar, Groups, and, e-mail.  Lots of schools have switched over to Google Apps for Education, though mostly for the e-mail.  I look at the suite and think of the possibilities for collaboration and the little annoyances add up to massive frustration.

For instance – I am trying to put together stuff for a large group project for school.  I create a Group, and invite my 5 teammates.  I then create a Calendar, and invite those same 5.  I then create a folder in Docs (thank goodness I can at least share folders rather than each individual document), and…invite the same 5, AGAIN.  This is ridiculous!  Why can’t I just create something like a “site” that combines all of these, to which I can invite the 5 people all at once?

I’m not saying it’s easy.  I’m not sitting here playing armchair developer.  But if they have time to build GoogleWave then why can’t they have put this together into a cohesive set of tools?

GoogleMaps – everyone thinks this is a flat out hit.  Accurate mapping via Nav-Tec, satellite views that was about as disruptive as one can get (how quickly mapquest and yahoo maps followed suit…), added street view, and now some traffic data.  Awesome.  But…what have they done other than make a really cool mapping system?  What about integration with all of the other services out there that are local-based and content rich?  Why not work with TripAdvisor (owned by Expedia) and hook reviews of restaurants and hotels in?  TomTom just recently came out with a GPS with Google integration but from what I’ve heard it’s like having a GPS…and then having Google on it.  It’s not very tightly wound together.  Is Google putting much effort into it?  Who knows.

An that’s the crux of it.  Who knows?  I’m not sure Google does.  And if they do, then they are doing a TERRIBLE job of allocating what is surely a great pool of creative and productive talent.