Google Kills off Two More Products: Health and PowerMeter

Ever since Larry Page became CEO, it's been clear that Google (GOOG) had to reevaluate all those funny little side businesses that didn't go anywhere. The company already bid bye-bye to Wave last summer. Now Google Health and Google PowerMeter will be retired because they "didn't scale as we had hoped."

Google Health was supposed to let consumers store their health information and have access to it wherever they were. Google PowerMeter let people see their home energy consumption online, through the use of smart utility meters and energy monitoring devices. Google will shut down PowerMeter on September 16 this year. Health stays up until January 1, 2012, although customer data is available for download for a full year after.

Both products showed Google's assumption that "with more and better information, people can make smarter choices, whether in regard to managing personal health and wellness, or saving money and conserving energy at home." However, the company faced a number of problems:

  • Growing consumer distrust of Google's use of personal data likely made many reluctant to divulge details.
  • The often DIY-flavor of Google services has appeal to some consumers, but is a poor fit for most who want benefits, but insist on simplicity of operation and use.
  • Such data services depend on more than consumer adoption. PowerMeter required that someone's utility company install compatible smart meters. Health needed health professionals to buy in.
The complexity of the services needed something far beyond the self-serve sales model that Google usually favors. Both products highlight key issues that Google must wrestle with. Although the company must be realistic in terms of spending it resources, to ignore innovation would be dangerous and leave it even more dependent on advertising as the sole monetary driver of the business.

Aside from Google's death wish relationship to regulation, fixing the way it approaches and develops new products and services -- and, where it falls down today, creating business models to support them -- may be the most important task facing Page.


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