The Week in Daily Updates (Week 2)

The main page content on Stratechery is free for all readers, but I also offer the Daily Update via email and RSS for $10 per month/$100 per year.1 This is a selection of items that were sent out in this week’s Daily Updates. To sign up, visit the Membership page

Was Google+ A Success?

(Posted on Monday, April 28)

Vic Gundotra, the former Microsoft executive who worked on Android and then Google+, left Google last week amid word that Google+ was being largely disbanded. From TechCrunch:

Today, Google’s Vic Gundotra announced that he would be leaving the company after eight years. The first obvious question is where this leaves Google+, Gundotra’s baby and primary project for the past several of those years.

What we’re hearing from multiple sources is that Google+ will no longer be considered a product, but a platform — essentially ending its competition with other social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

As I’ve written in the past, I always saw the social network aspects of Google+ as frosting on the cake; the true win was identifying and tracking Google users. John Battelle wrote just that:

Whether or not Google+ continues as a standalone product isn’t the question. Google likely never cared if Google+ “won” as a competitor to Facebook (though if it did, that would have been a nice bonus). All that mattered, in the end, was whether Plus became the connective tissue between all of Google’s formerly scattered services. And in a few short years, it’s fair to say it has.

Many, though, have argued that Google was in fact quite serious about Google+ being a viable social network, including this former intern:

Today, it can be hard to imagine that Google faced a deep existential threat to its business three years ago. The company’s financials were as strong as always, but there was a growing cacophony among bloggers and the wider media over the future of the company in the throes of an industry rapidly changing due to social, local and mobile. Google was still primarily a web-based company, the bulk of its revenues derived from advertising that had failed to deeply penetrate any of these three nascent verticals.

These concerns were obviously external as well as internal to Google. It was clear that Facebook, with its ever-expanding social graph, was developing an extraordinary dataset that could undermine the supremacy of Google’s key search product…

These fears manifested themselves in what would eventually be called Google+.

That final sentence is so powerful, and really says all you need to know about Google+. It was a product that existed because Google needed it to exist, not because there was a consumer need. How many products, particularly those from large corporations, are little more than the manifestation of corporate fear? It’s certainly a great description of Windows 8, for example, and is something to keep in mind when and if an iWatch is announced.

Samsung’s Earnings

(Posted on Tuesday, April 29)

Sasmung’s mobile division nubmers disappointed once again. From Bloomberg:

Samsung Electronics Co., the largest smartphone maker, posted the lowest sales at its mobile-phone business in five quarters as Chinese producers gain in emerging markets with cheaper, feature-packed devices.

Revenue at the mobile division, the company’s biggest business, fell to 32.4 trillion won ($31 billion) in the three months ended March, the lowest since the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2012, Samsung said today. The Suwon, South Korea-based company’s share of the global smartphone market fell for the first time in four years, according to Strategy Analytics. The shares fell.

As I wrote last week, Apple bears fail to appreciate there is a sustainable high end of the phone market, which Apple is increasingly dominating. Their prescription for what might befall Apple, though, isn’t wrong in its mechanics but rather its application: their predictions are exactly what is happening to Samsung.

Look at the non-iPhone smart market: by definition it is a commodity market where low price wins. There Samsung is the integrated incumbent, facing an onslaught of good enough modularized phones, primarily from China. This dynamic is very predictable in any commodity market; the only mistake the Apple Bears make is dismissing iOS and presuming everything is a commodity.

F8 High Level Overview

At a very high level, yesterday’s Facebook announcement were about turning the old Facebook platform completely on its head. Previously, Facebook’s primary goal was to pull content and apps into Facebook, with the idea that your timeline would be the center of your online experience. It was a strategy that made sense in the context in which Facebook existed, namely, the PC, itself a destination device.

As the world has gone mobile, though, Facebook has famously learned that one app to rule them all simply doesn’t work. Instead, complexity and interconnectedness needs to move under the surface, connecting individual apps (usually via the cloud) like a digital pando tree. So, instead of pulling attention into Facebook, yesterday’s announcements were about extending Facebook’s tendrils into all kinds of different apps in a mutually beneficial way. Facebook is going to app developers, instead of telling app developers to come to Facebook.

The full list of topics covered this week in the Daily Update include:

  • Fast Lanes and Net Neutrality
  • Was Google+ a Success?
  • Amazon Earnings Follow-up
  • Bitcoin and China
  • Samsung’s Earnings
  • International Plans for Xiaomi and Lenovo
  • Twitter’s Earnings
  • WWDC Hardware Speculation
  • Sign In With Google
  • F8 High Level Overview
  • Facebook and the Signal-to-Ads Cycle
  • The Facebook Platform
  • Android Silver
  • Box Delays IPO
  • Facebook AppLinks Follow-up

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  1. There is also an access option for $30 per month/$300 per year which gives you access to me personally to ask about the topic of your choosing, a private message board, and virtual and in-person meetups