Deconstructing Google's 'spray and pray' approach

Venture capitalist Jean-Louis Gassée says Web giant's "Strategy of Everything" risks product quality and being perceived as a threat.

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Steven Musil
2 min read

Google is trying to have its finger in every pie, and it's this trying to be "all things to all people" that venture capitalist Jean-Louis Gassée derides as the "spray and pray" approach in a column headlined "Google's SOE (Strategy of Everything)."

"We'll shoot arrows in the dark and when the sun rises, we'll paint a target around the one that lands in a good spot," he says, mimicking how a strategist might explain the approach. "We'll declare victory and raise a second round while claiming that this had been our strategy all along."

Gassée points out that Google wants its ads in reader's faces all the time and wants "to insert themselves into all aspects of our lives, to find out much as they can about as many aspects, activities, and relationships as possible."

As Google pursues this strategy, Gassée posits, product quality will inevitably suffer and the company will be perceived as a threat, as has been verified by recent antitrust attention Google has attracted. But another threat is the risk of trying to focus on catching all the little fish that the big one swims by unnoticed, Gassée says, noting Google's failure to in the social-networking sector:

Google saw that smartphones were destined to be bigger than PCs. Android is a Google-scale success that shows what the company is capable of. But Google's failure in social networking as Facebook and Twitter succeeded shows that you can't man all the crenels in the fortress wall. Whatever the reason--management bandwidth, cultural deafness, lack of attention, arrogance as the toxic waste of success--Google either didn't see Facebook or failed to develop the right service at the right time. And now Facebook has more than 750 million users worldwide. It's become a kind of black hole sucking in Web traffic.

While making fun of the approach, Gassée also points out that with $36 billion in cash in its coffers, "Google is extremely capital efficient" while employing this approach.