3rd party plugins have repeatedly been the source of distinct competitive advantage in computing markets for over 40 years. From IBM’s SSL-Scientific Subroutine Library established a mainframe presence over 50 years ago thru Microsoft’s Visual Basic Component’s vital role in VB’s success in the early 1990’s to Apple’s iPhone plugins/extensions in the current smartphone market – all 3 are examples of 3rd party plugins that help secure a dominating market position.
And why not ? Plugins do 3 crucial things for a vendor:
1)they fill in the performance and feature gaps at a low cost for the main vendor who can concentrate all their development and engineering expertise on getting the main product out in a timely and performant package;
2)they allow third parties to make sure the product fits specific, specialized customer needs providing a second level of support that would be difficult for the main vendor to learn enough to deliver in a timely and efficient fashion;
3)the plugins help legitimize the product because the plugins broaden the product’s appeal. So the many plugin vendors are like high level confirming endorsements for customers – “hey if these savvy developers think the product is good, it must be pretty hot”.
Now an array of plugins does not guarantee success, but as in the smartphone market, a large, reliable and cost effective library of plugins is now a prerequisite for success.
The Google Gaffe
Google is trying to give its Android and Chrome OS on Netbooks and Smartphones plugin support to match Apple’s iPhone 90,000++ plugins. Both Google OS have plugin libraries growing rapidly but each is less than 1/4 the number of plugins available for the iPhone. So when I saw the following KenKen Google Gadget:
I was very impressed but also a little distressed to see the heavy ads and klunky buttons. So I decided to check out Google Gadgets and see if I could find some really good ones to add to my key websites. When I went to the Google Gadgets page, I was astonished to see that there were over 170,000 gadgets in the Google Gadget library.
But I was equally astonished by the very mixed quality of the gadgets. Some simply did not work, others worked but quickly transferred users to the developers website for a sales spiel, and others were so laden-ed with ads that space for running the gadget was compromised. In short, Google’s Library for Gadgets was 100,000 testaments to why not to use Google Gadgets.
By extension, I now have big doubts about the Android and Chrome gadgets/plugins.
How could Google do this ? Well if you see some of the many Google Adsense Blurb sites whose only purpose is to get users to trip and click on a Google ad, one sees the precursor for this lapse in quality control. Also Google’s compensation to the gadget makers is rumored to be so thin that they have to look for some other sources of revenue … hence the many jump/link out early and ad ridden gadgets. Google may be driving too hard a bargain with its 3rd party gadgetmakers. But finally, there is a startling miss here on strategic marketing judgment that bodes not well for Google.
And there is a disturbing precedence – Google has had Yahoo and Microsoft down for the count in the Search business. But Google means simplicity and frugality in display/UI refinements. So Microsoft with Bing has taken over the ASK Us? idea – make the display and decision context determine how search results are formatted, displayed and allow further user choices and refinements on search results presentation. Voila Microsoft is back in the search game.
Don’t get me wrong – Google like Obama is still miles ahead of the loyal search opposition. But a few more gaffes like this and that $600++ stock price will be sitting on a more precarious pinnacle.