Dear Google: Stop Making Apps

Note: This is a reprint of an article I wrote on LinkedIn, which was on the front page of Slashdot on July 2nd, 2015. Since the publication, Google has, in fact, started the holding company Alphabet. Congratulations to them!

Dear Google,

Consider this a love letter. Actually, let’s call it “tough love,” because this might be hard for you to hear. An intervention, if you will. Google, you have to stop making apps. Yes, mobile is the future (and no, ChromeOS isn’t going to change that). But you have to stop putting out shovel ware, incomplete implementations, half-hearted UX, and more apps than even an appaholic could download.

Google, you have to stop making apps.

As of the writing of this article, Wikipedia reports that on the Android platform alone, Google officially maintains 73 separate applications, from search companions to whimsical creations to track Santa. Chances are, you don’t even know what half of these apps do, and have little to no use for them. I’m willing to bet that there are very few Google employees who could successfully rattle off the entire stable of apps.

So, let’s stop. Pretty please. Instead, consider the following vision for Google’s future in the mobile marketplace:

Let’s build the plumbing that empowers developers to drive meaningful marketplace engagement. What does this mean? Google sits atop the world’s premier data asset. As a company, its consumer touch points have become necessary gateways to everyday life. The aggregate information Google knows about you in its virtual big brain has the ability to tell you what you want before you know you want it.

Build the plumbing that empowers developers to drive meaningful marketplace engagement.

So why, instead, are we tracking Santa? If you’ve installed this app, Google can make a strong inference that you have young children, or participate in the care of such. Combined with information from your Gmail usage, your search history, your GPS locations, and even your medical history, Google can make meaningful and timely recommendations of articles, experiences, and products that you would be excited to engage with. This is the future of the virtual assistant. Google should be connecting the dots between financial transactions, health records, search history, GPS data, app usage, Gmail threads, IM conversations, and more. If you book a flight to New York, Google should be suggesting not only contacts you might want to re-engage with when you land, but also a list of restaurants or activities that match the preferences of both parties. And perhaps some curated topics to bring up when you get together.

Google can provide the data-rich API platform, the interconnectedness, the big brain calculations in the cloud. Instead of investing more resources in apps smaller teams could build better, let’s free developers do what they do best: leverage Google services to build new and engaging experiences across a variety of platforms.

Few other companies are as well positioned to leverage the confluence of information, but if Google doesn’t fill the void sooner than later, someone is going to get a pretty big head start. But that’s ok; Google+ caught up to Facebook by doing it later, only better. Oh, wait.

Forming a holding company is a necessary step, if the company is to continue to create shareholder value.

The smartest move for the tech giant would be to create a clear bifurcation of Google itself, and literally everything else. Revenues from advertising account for 90% of earnings, yet the company makes long term R&D investments in projects as diverse as smart home, fiber, longevity, and self-driving cars. Forming a holding company that includes Google’s search and advertising business as just one piece of a larger puzzle is a necessary step in terms of scalability and packaging, if the company is to continue to create shareholder value.

With (tough) Love,

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