Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Google Samples Reality

A friend and former colleague had a good adage about free products - 'They are free and worth every penny'.

It used to be my mantra when selling web and videoconferencing against the likes of Microsoft who allegedly (despite making over 40% net profits at the time) gave NetMeeting away free. Sure enough they stopped developing the product but it scuppered many a sale for me.

And so Google, the masters of 'selling' free products and services, finally stepped up and brought us a touch of reality - their version of a SmartPhone, the Nexus One. Sold either as a separate item or as an airtime bundle with T-Mobile in the US it is not cheap but it is meant to be an alternative to the immensely popular Apple iPhone. In the UK, it will be sold via Vodafone or Google direct.

The trouble is that Google has always offered support of its product via anonymous email - why expect more as their products are free, after all? Not so with the Nexus One - you pay serious money to get in on the act and Google were set to make handsome profits. But the real world intervened. Phones can go wrong and customers in the US are furious - filling bulletin boards and forums with complaints about lack of service and finger pointing by Google as neither they or their airtime provider can agree who should be taking the calls to service complaining customers - and Google do not have a line you can call.

Google must have watched Microsoft, who over the years have made lack of customer service an art form. Microsoft products are not cheap - a full MS Office suite for a home user, small business or even a Corporate User sets you back a pretty big sum. But try getting some support on the product and you have the delight of being referred to your PC supplier if it was bought pre-loaded or just sit and wait for hours if you bought it direct from Microsoft. And it's not as if Microsoft products are bug-free - some of the bugs actually were put in the very first versions and reside there today like antique quirks.

Google are vying to topple the likes of Microsoft and become standard applications in the world of Cloud Computing. To do so it has to learn a lesson that customers are fed up with the arrogance of the likes of Microsoft when it comes to ropey products and poor support. To make us all change, the alternative not only has to be 'fresh and cool' but reliable and well supported.

I hope Google get it right for the UK launch.

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