When Google Labs closes its door, will innovation find its room, and what will happen to the 20 percent time dedicated for innovation?
Google's announcement on Wednesday to wind down Google Labs, the breeding ground for many of Google's most brilliant tools, raised questions for the future of innovation in Google and stirred up some unrest among Google's hard-core users.
In a blog post titled More wood behind fewer arrows, Google Senior Vice President for Research and Systems Infrastructure Bill Coughran announced that Google Labs will be winding down its operations.
Google Labs served as a playground where adventurous users could play around with prototypes of some of Google's wild and crazy ideas and offer feedback directly to the engineers who developed them. Among Google's thriving products that pride Google Labs as their womb are Google Maps, Reader, Video, Docs, Trends, and Similar Image search.
While we've learned a huge amount by launching very early prototypes in Labs, we believe that greater focus is crucial if we're to make the most of the extraordinary opportunities ahead, said Coughran in the post.
In many cases, this will mean ending Labs experiments-in others we'll incorporate Labs products and technologies into different product areas.
Bloomberg reports that Google Co-founder and CEO Larry Page is trying to make product development more efficient to tap opportunities in the mobile, social and e-commerce markets. For the past month, Page, who just took over as CEO in April, introduced a social network to rival Facebook but retired health information manager Google Health and energy use tracker Google PowerMeter.
PC World notes says the end of Google Labs is bound to raise eyebrows in the industry, considering that Google has always touted its policy to encourage innovation among employees and to release new products early and refine them iteratively in the public eye.
At Google Labs, Google's employees had 20 percent time, a practical symbol of innovation where engineers could spend one day a week working on projects that aren't necessarily in our job descriptions, as described by an engineer on Google's blog in 2006. You can use the time to develop something new, or if you see something that's broken, you can use the time to fix it. And this is how I recently worked up a new feature for Google Reader, reads the post.
Nicholas Jackson at The Atlantic expressed his concern for Google's decision;
Without Google Labs, you can expect to see Google continue to launch new products -- or continue to try out new things with Google+ -- but only because it has to remain competitive. Without the testing ground and public development period that other prototypes have been subjected to, though, you can also expect to see more failures. Brutal, public failures.
The shutdown of Google Labs sets a new road to the future of innovation at Google. While many people hold the service as crucial for Google's strength in innovative adventures, the Labs' demise sends a message to investors and consumers that Google has core businesses to serve, says Whit Andrews, an analyst with Gartner Inc., reported Bloomberg. This makes Google address innovation in a different way. It means that it will be less likely that you'll create something cool and see how it works. This means we need a business goal and a business direction, Andrews said.
Many of the Labs products that are Android apps today will continue to be available on Android Market. The Google Labs website will continue to announce the progress of its closure.
We'll continue to push speed and innovation-the driving forces behind Google Labs-across all our products, as the early launch of the Google+ field trial last month showed, Google's announcement concluded.