While it has been obvious for some time that Google isn't happy just being the best Internet search website around (Exhibit 1: the Android phone), I was a bit surprised to read today that the company is getting ready to unveil a new venture: a delivery service that would let people order items from local stores on the Web and receive them at their homes or offices within a day. Okay, that sounds nice and all, but why oh why is Google straying so far from its core business of helping me find out how many students applied to Dartmouth early decision this year, or a good synonym for "lyrical," or a creativity video that I can use in the MGT453 class that I'm teaching at San Diego State University?
Of course, excursions such as these are not new for Google. When the company acquired YouTube, the connection with its core search business was not obvious. But as the the two companies have become more integrated together, it makes much more sense. Sure, YouTube is first and foremost an online hosting service for videos. But the site is also the #2 player in the search market -- behind its corporate parent Google, and ahead of Yahoo!, Bing, and the other also-rans.
So YouTube makes sense -- that turns out to be close to the company's core mission of search. A delivery service? Not so much. This strategy of throwing business ideas at the wall to see what sticks is unlikely to result in long-term new product lines for the company. Instead, Google is diluting its brand by spreading itself so thinly over so many different businesses. Something tells me that the company will roll ths new service out to great fanfare in a limited number of big cities, and then quietly shut it down when the results are less than stellar. We'll soon see.
When I think about Google's plans, the phrase "stick to your knitting" comes to mind. I personally believe that Google should be putting its money into making its search engine even better, and letting someone else worry about delivering the things people order from local stores.
But hey -- they didn't ask me.