Google is known for offering users as much choice as possible in almost all the markets they compete in - YouTube Music was until recently a direct competitor of Google Play Music, Chromecast and Android TV don’t seem to be intended to be used with each other, Google Cardboard cannibalises Daydream View sales, and YouTube Movies serves almost the same purpose as Google Play movies. Not to forget this year’s Pixel Slate competing in a manner with last year’s Pixelbook, given that they run the same operating system and have similar hardware beyond the $1000 price point.
However, if their renewed policy towards their social networking apps is any indicator of a complete change in their entire social media strategy, then there seem to be a few changes up Google’s sleeve for the next couple of years.
It started with reports towards the end of November on 9to5Google of Google Hangouts shutting down for us consumers in 2020. This on its own was not somewhat surprising; it only came earlier than most expected - after all, few used it for conversations within their Gmail inbox, and not many found its chat feature to be much of an asset on mobile, with there being a vast number of options available that are more commonly used. Add to that that Google Duo has become a popular cross-platform video calling app, then there remains little relevance of Hangouts Video. It will live on for enterprise users as a competitor of Slack. Then came the more inevitable end of Google+, which was essentially Google’s Facebook clone that didn’t exactly take off. Its end was hastened by two back-to-back data leaks of some of the few who were using the service, and it is shutting down next April.
The big shocker (at least for me) was the announcement of the termination of Google Allo early next year, which is a departure from Google’s tradition of giving their products a long run, regardless of their popularity and traction. Having been launched alongside Google Duo only recently, back in 2016, Allo probably failed to gain the traction Google expected it to, and despite being a good messaging app on its own, the lack of market knowledge about the app (as far as I saw) was probably its bane.
Google finally seems to have streamlined their entire social networking strategy and is placing almost its bets for consumers on the new RCS Chat on Android that’s just begun finding its feet. And that doesn’t feel like what Google would typically do. It seems like the time’s come when the Silicon Valley giant has decided to shed its skin of being a fun, playful, experimenting and risk-taking internet company. And that’s not necessarily a good thing.