Google’s strange acquisition practices

By March 12, 2009 17 Comments

Google has announced the launch of Google Voice, which is actually the relaunch of the GrandCentral phone management service which they acquired 21 months ago.  The service itself sounds very cool (a web portal giving you one number for all your phones, management tools to route your calls, texts and voicemails, a voicemail transcription service and a search function which indexes your texts and voicemail transcriptions – it is only available in the US unfortunately, but I would love to see it here) – but my point in this post is that the service has been in stasis for the 21 months since it was acquired.

According to Techcrunch in that time the service has been frozen to new users, has had no new features and has been subject to periodic outages.

Moreover all this was expected at the time of acquisition as the service has been rebuilt from the ground up to run on Google’s proprietary technology stack.

All of which makes you wonder whether it was worth Google’s while to make the acquisition in the first place:

  • They rebuilt the product – so I’m guessing they didn’t get much technology (I doubt there is a clever algorithm at the heart of this service)
  • They clearly didn’t value the customer base too highly
  • I’m sure they got some people, but at a rumoured price tag of $50m that can’t have been the only rationale
  • In 21 months they could probably have built the service themselves from scratch without buying the company

Combine this logic with the long list of Google acquisitions that have simply disappeared/gone nowhere (Jotspot, Jaiku, Dodgeball, Feedburner, Blogger) and you quickly reach the conclusion that going forward we might see far fewer deals from them at this scale.