Google announced yesterday that they will sunset their Google Reader application together with several other applications and APIs in what they brand as a "spring cleaning". This is not the first time Google decides to trim their application portfolio. Does anyone remember Google Wave?
I think the push-back might be much stronger this time. Google Wave was a very experimental platform which never saw its usage case validated beyond a very small core of dedicated users and some of its innovations were supposedly put to use in other applications such as Google Docs and Google+. Google Reader on the other hand has been a very reliable and loved RSS-reader with a significant user base as well as platform for many third party Readers and Apps.
According to Google, the usage of Google Reader has gone down over the past years, probably due to competition from Twitter and other tools. Even so, taking down one of the major services in the Gmail Apps portfolio which had a clearly validated usage case makes you wonder, what is next?
Maybe we will see services such as Google Groups or Blogger go? Google has some explaining to do when it comes to what their strategy going forward is going to be. What is the core strategy behind Gmail and Google Apps?
I understand that Googles approach to widening their appeal and revenues beyond search and advertising has always been, "try anything and see what sticks". They have been able to follow this non-strategy because of their immense revenues from search. I think it might work very well as a way to foster innovation within Google, but from a user standpoint, it makes the company unpredictable and you don't know if the services they are launching really have the backing internally to last or if they are another test balloon.
Maybe what Google is doing right now under the relatively new leadership of Larry Page, is to solidify their product portfolio and develop an actual strategy for the company. They have certainly started with the former, now they just need to communicate what their vision is...