Google Shoots Itself In The Foot. Again

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Google Google just can’t help itself. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the epic fail of one Google spokesperson who singlehandedly cast doubt about Google’s commitment to its cloud platform. This time it’s another loose cannon in the form of Google CIO Ben Fried. Fried gave an interesting and jaw-dropping interview to AllThingsD in which he talked about the risks to an organization like Google of using third party cloud products. (I kid you not, one of the original creators of third party cloud products decides they’re not safe to use).

Commenting on the assertion that Google bans cloud backup, sync and sharing service Dropbox from its corporate network, Fried confirmed the fact and justified the move with the ill-advised comment that:

The important thing to understand about Dropbox, is that when your users use it in a corporate context, your corporate data is being held in someone else’s data center

Well, um, yes. That Mr Fried is a pretty good definition of what cloud computing is all about. It’s the very proposition that your band of merry enterprise sales folks are using to try and sell Google Apps to all those customers out there. You just gave your entire salesforce a black eye and, at the least, made sure they’re the brunt of all their colleagues jokes.

Seeing yet another PR disaster, Google’s spin team got into action and issued a clarification in which they say that Fried misspoke. According to the clarification:

Fried says he meant that the real concern about Dropbox and other apps is more around security than storage. “Any third-party cloud providers that our employees use must pass our thorough security review and agree under contract to maintain certain security levels,” Fried wrote via email after the story posted.

Facepalm anyone? While this example is one small mistake from someone who generally wouldn’t get air time, it’s yet another example of the real issues that Google faces if it wants to become a “real” enterprise IT vendor. There’s a reason that Oracle Oracle, Microsoft Microsoft and VMware VMware have extensive PR departments. There’s a reason that all those “non productive types” that Google seems to have disdain for exist – those marketing, communications, analyst relations and media types all have an important role to fill and, for those within the Googleplex who haven’t yet grokked it, it goes something like this…

Large enterprises spend a huge amount of money on IT and rely on their IT systems to run the most sensitive and mission critical parts of their business. They rely on their vendors to ensure their products are robust, reliable and fit for purpose. They expect that the messages coming from their vendors, the strategy behind the product roadmap, and the fundamental way in which the vendor works gives them continued confidence in the vendor’s ability to deliver. True, some of that is an engineering question and vendors need to prove they have the engineering smarts – but many a superior technology has been passed over by a customer worried about all the other things the expect from a vendor.

While a hokey story about Google creating a product (be it Drive, Hangouts, Email or Apps) because they had an internal need for it and didn’t want to rely on a third party product makes for great discussions at a technology conference, it’s not the sort of thing that gives customers confidence. Customers want far more certainty than the promise of 20% time, serendipity or some uber-geek’s pet project.

Once and for all Google, please sit up and listen. This stuff is important, you are unquestionably a world-changing organization and have the ability to make everything better. But this flippant attitude to many parts of what you do hamper your ability to execute on that opportunity. That’s undoubtedly a bad thing for your shareholders, but more importantly is a bad thing for us all.

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users. Read more about Ben here.

Connect with Ben on Twitter @benkepes | LinkedIn | AngelList

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