Death of Google Wave – Another Innovation Infanticide

So Google Wave is dead. Google killed it. It wasn’t as unlucky as Larrabee. It did see some light of the day. But it lost life in it’s infancy. When Wave was launched about a year ago, it received mixed reviews. It roused fear, suspicion, awe and a subtle sense of mystery. Google called it, “a new web application for real-time communication and collaboration”. Soon there were mixed reactions from different users. On one hand there were users who hailed it as a tool that would substantially hurt emails, hurt Facebook and wipe Twitter off the face of this planet. Well, nothing of these happened. Several experts and geeks slammed Wave for its apparent complexity and slowness. Martin Seilbert on TechCrunch wrote “Google Wave sucks….” mainly because of its complexity, instability and slow speed. However there were hopes that as people will start using it they will get accustomed to the tool and gradually Google Wave will be accepted. Experts also hoped that at least its collaboration feature will help it survive and win users.

However, Wave optimists, who were an obvious minority, finally accepted defeat with Google itself announcing suspension of Wave. The main reason for its suspension according to Google has been lack of user acceptance. This entire episode leaves us with two questions. One, why Wave didn’t succeed, given the user-base that Google enjoys? Two, Is Google hurrying in pulling the plug? Is it a right strategy to altogether abandon the innovation for lack of acceptance? Karim Lakhani of HBS has hailed Google’s decision saying that, “…….admitting failure and moving on is another key lesson in managing innovation.” He further adds, ” The ability to (quickly) shut down failing projects and reallocate intellectual and financial resources to other more promising endeavors is critical to innovation success as it releases individuals and budgets to take on the next big challenge.

We don’t know what are the internal investment criteria at Google.  But the signal that this decision gives is that Google is both ambitious and ruthless with itself at the same time. On one hand, it doesn’t hesitate in launching highly ambitious tools like Wave and on the other doesn’t hesitate in abandoning it if it doesn’t perform well enough. The only mystery here is, what is that ‘performance criteria’ in a tool as radically innovative as Wave. Or, is it simply the performance of Wave, or is it a change in the product portfolio strategy? Shall we soon see features of Wave being integrated into other Google products? Well, only time will tell. As of now, as Google Wave and the Users’ manual to Google Wave both, are history. But as the author of its Users’ manual, Gina Trapani said, we can also say, “…I respect any product that shoots as high as Wave did, even if it misses in the market.”

For some academic work on a similar question, have a look at Agarwal, Rajshree; Bayus, Berry & Tripsas, Mary. 2005. ‘Abandoning Innovation in an Emerging Industry. ‘ Working Paper and also the paper that I am citing below.

ResearchBlogging.org

Sanjay Jain, & Kamalini Ramdas (2005). Up or out—or stay put? Product positioning in an evolving technology environment Production and Operations Management, 14 (3), 362-376 : 10.1111/j.1937-5956.2005.tb00030.x

Intel’s Larrabee – Another Innovation Abandoned

Larrabee is dead! Intel has announced one of the most ambitious graphics ventures’ demise on a blog post by Bill Kircos, Intel’s Director of product and technology . Intel didn’t announce it explicitly though, but fFortunately, Ryan Smith at Anandtech has deciphered it for us.

Four years ago rumours surfaced that ‘a shadowy organization called Larrabee Development Group‘ had launched itself to do the unthinkable in the High-end graphics chip industry. It had decided to take head on the two big crocodiles of the pond, namely NVidia and AMD. However, Job vacancy postings on Intel’s website did little to hide that Larrabee was an Intel venture. After a few months Intel proudly announced launch of Larrabee, a multi-core processor design which was supposed to compete with other GPGPU based (General Purpose Graphic Processing Unit) future products from competitors NVIDIA and AMD. Larrabee was supposed to be something like a combination of GPU/CPU. A chip that would have a full programmability of a CPU and throughput computing feature of a GPU. (see image below)

However, Intel’s foray into producing a Multi-core GPGPU Chip didn’t bother Nvidia and AMD much. On the contrary their strategies were not at all affected by Intel’s apparent plans. Both of them rather steadily went ahead with their strategy of Integrated Graphics.

After missing their initial product launch deadlines, last December Intel delayed the Graphic Processor launch and decided to downsize Larrabee to Software Development Platform. The product was now slated to arrive sometime in 2010. However Bill Kircos in his blog at Intel’s website has discretely written, “We will not bring a discrete graphics product to market, at least in the short-term.”

This means, Larrabee – the product is not coming to shelf. This case brings us back to the issue of abandoning innovation that was discussed here at Creatologue in the light of Microsoft’s abandonment of Courier. However, Larrabee’s case is quite peculiar. Larrabee, if it would have been launched would have been quite a radically innovative product. As is shown in the  image below.

What Intel has done by abandoning Larrabee is effectively imitating its competitors by focusing on Integrated Graphics rather than thinking about a CPU/GPU hybrid.

It would really be interesting to explore when a company might abandon a radical innovation project? One obvious reason was that it wasn’t giving expected results. But then, in an uncharted technology category, it will always be difficult to estimate performance. On the other hand, while its competitors in the graphics processing segment, have a strong presence, especially NVIDIA being stronger in gaming segment, overall Intel is incomparably bigger than these competitors. Given it’s size Intel shouldn’t worry about economies of scale or scope. The only other probable expectation is shift in strategic importance of the innovation (Agarwal, Barry and Tripsas, 2005). Why such a touted innovation lost its importance before it could see the light of the day, only time will tell.

Reference

Agarwal, Rajshree; Bayus, Berry & Tripsas, Mary. 2005. ‘Abandoning Innovation in an Emerging Industry. ‘ Working Paper.