Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Google's development handicap: worldwide support

I get frustrated because of things like Google's broken Outlook synchronization, or their non-existent task/calendar integration, or a dozen other things I'd like to see them do with gCal and, even more, with Google Apps.

What do they do with their time and money?

Well, among other things, they deal with the consequences of a worldwide customer base:
The official update feed from the Google Apps team: Google Calendar adds support for 8 new languages

.... Google Calendar now supports Google Calendar now supports US English, UK English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish, Russian, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Japanese, Thai, Filipino/Tagalog, Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Portugal), Turkish, Hungarian, Serbian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Latvian, Romanian, Lithuanian, Slovenian and Polish...
Language support is feature 0 for most users (excluding the Dutch, who all speak and write six languages from birth). On the other hand, a port to Chinese doesn't get my Outlook 2003 sync working.

Obviously, Google needs to do this work. A port to Chinese is a thousand times more important in terms of human value and Google's future than fixing Outlook Calendar sync.

It is interesting though, to consider the consequences of having a worldwide support task. It suggests new features will be deployed with increasing care and deliberation - no matter how much development money is available. Software development does not scale linearly with resources, as Microsoft has amply shown. At some point a extra billion dollars buys only a small increment in functional improvement.

I wonder if Google's global burden will open opportunities for less constrained competitors...

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