Skip to main content

The week Google really 'messed up'

John D. Sutter, CNN
Google says it
Google says it "messed up" by releasing a Gmail app for iOS that barely functioned.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Google launches Gmail app for iOS that barely functions
  • Company pulls the app from the App Store, says "We messed up"
  • A redesign of Google reader also has been declared a "disaster"
  • Tech pundit says Google has lost its innovative mojo

(CNN) -- Love or hate Google, you probably don't expect this sort of message from one of the largest and most innovative Internet and technology companies in the world:

"The iOS app we launched today contained a bug with notifications," the company wrote Wednesday on Twitter. "We have pulled the app to fix the problem. Sorry we messed up."

That's just one of the ways Google screwed up this week, according to tech pundits and bloggers. The company also released an update to Google Reader that was described by a former employee as "a disaster."

"Maybe Google isn't so invincible after all," the site InfoWorld asked.

The complaints raise two deeper issues about Google:

First is the long-aired gripe that the company develops cooler and better-functioning smartphone apps for Android devices than it does for Apple's iOS. That makes some sense. After all, Google created Android, and has a business interest in seeing that smartphone platform succeed over that of its competitors. The new Gmail app, however, is raising questions about the company's ability to put out apps that -- at the very least -- will function on Apple devices.

"The real question here is how were these problems not caught during testing, either on Google's part or Apple's? (Conspiracy theory: Apple did catch the errors, but approved the app anyway)," the blog TechCrunch wrote.

Second, this week's botched Gmail app for iOS digs at Google's image as an innovative company. If Google keeps releasing disappointing products, people may stop being excited about the company as a whole, MG Siegler, a tech pundit, wrote on his personal blog.

"They release something, and I no longer have any faith that it's going to be any good," Siegler wrote on Wednesday in a post titled "Faith No More." "It's hard to get excited about a company like that. It's the same reason why it's hard to get excited when Microsoft and Yahoo release new things. The track record just isn't there any more. The faith is gone."

This week's controversy follows several less-than-thrilling product launches from Google. Google+, the company's effort to compete with Facebook, has seen its traffic plunge. Other Google products, from Google Offers to Google Latitude, never became break-out successes. And that's not to mention Google Wave, Google Buzz and Google Health, which the company killed.

Google has had trouble with the functionality of its iOS apps, in particular.

"Previously, the company pulled its Google Voice app from the iOS App Store because of continuous crashing in iOS 5," the site PC World says. "Google also had to fix several bugs in its Google+ iOS app a few months ago, but never removed the app from the store. Given Google's tendency to release products in beta form, these aren't huge surprises."

Others are less forgiving.

"Given the size and importance of the company, it's a joke really. Yes, they have Android, which they are clearly going to favor over Apple's rival mobile platform, but come on," Siegler wrote.

"When you release sub-par products, you look sub-par yourself. Customers don't care what platform it's on, and don't care what politics are going on behind the scenes at the company. If you release s---, you look like s---. It's much better to release nothing at all."

Tech pundits also piled criticism on the new version of Google Reader, which includes integration with the company's social network but isn't considered to be as aesthetically pleasing. "Someone took the magic color-removing wand and drenched the whole page in grey," wrote Brian Shih, who is a former product manager for Google Reader. "It's so unbelievably stark, it's hard to imagine a more desolate experience."

"There's almost no way Google could have blundered more disastrously here," writes Forbes.

It seems the only thing Google can get right this week is a pumpkin-carving video.

If you've taken a look at the new Google Reader or the iOS Gmail app, let us know what you think in the comments. To be sure, not all reviews are as scathing as those quoted here.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT