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March 19, 2010

Google and Pre-announcing New Features

Google: "We don't pre-announce our products." (2006)

Before the launch of Google Apps Premier Edition, Google rarely pre-announced new features or new services. Since many new features were released in beta, Google announced them when they were available. Google wanted to deliver real value and trying a service is far more exciting than reading a blog post or a press release.

Something changed in 2007, when Google launched Google Apps for businesses. In April 2007, Google promised that it will launch an online service for editing presentations: "Well, we tried to keep it a secret as long as we could, but to be honest, we've been dying to tell you about the bun we've got in the oven. We'll soon be welcoming a new addition to the Google Docs & Spreadsheets family: presentations. Our due date is this summer." The service has been released in September.

Now it's no longer surprising to read things like: "We're pleased to announce the upcoming release of the Google Apps Connector for BlackBerry Enterprise Server". Businesses need predictability, but Google shouldn't become predictable.

The latest pre-announcement is from Google Analytics, which will launch "a global browser based plug-in to allow users to opt out of being tracked by Google Analytics. Our engineers are now hard at work finalizing and testing this opt-out functionality. We look forward to make it globally available to our users in the coming weeks."

It's nice to know that the engineers are "hard at work" and that the plug-in will be available "in the coming weeks", but when it will be released, people will no longer be excited to try it. If the launch is delayed and the plug-in won't be available "in the coming weeks", many people will wonder why they can't download it and will conclude that it's vaporware.

Coming soon: Google will announce some upcoming pre-announcements that will be posted in the coming weeks. Google's engineers are already hard at work writing blog posts about features that aren't yet available, but they'll be released at some point in the future.


  1. Perhaps this is a way to release a feature without getting a lot of hype for it. For example, in the analytics announcement, maybe they just prefer that users will not opt out, so they are making this type of announcement.
    This is, probably, not true for all of the cases, but in this case - this may be the reason.

    Generally, it has been said already, that Google is not really that great in marketing.

  2. How about offering the SAME SERVICES as regular gmail users to paying Google Apps users? Buzz, Voice, Talk, etc....

  3. I think Google does not want users to get excited and try it out. If you need some Connector or opt out feature, you will need it in few months, too. You have to differentiate on what Google announces.

  4. I find it very comforting - there's no risk that a company with such incompetent marketing could carry out any secret, evil plans.

  5. This is hilarious!!!!

  6. I think you guys are being a little crazy, annoucing when something is going to be released in advance of actually releasing it will not lower usage of google's products one bit and any of us who depend on google services to do our jobs would love to be able to plan even just a little bit ahead.

    The only people who'd think having a public product roadmap is a bad thing are people who just blog about google all day.

  7. @keithmancuso:

    Not at all. Pre-announcing features is great for blogs and news sites. You can write a post for the pre-announcement, then you can speculate. When Google releases the feature, you can write another article.

    What's disappointing is that Google used to about launching interesting projects, not about announcing them in advance.

  8. This is good.. anyhow... I think this is just another marketing strategy/tragedy from Google. Pre annoucing is like press release in another form. But if you look at it, it's just another way to call a press release.

    In any case.. this is good for users overall.

  9. Nice to see we share the same point of view, Ionut ;) And your last paragraph is great!

  10. Actually, I like pre-announcements. I like to know what features are coming so that I can prepare for them in advance. If I'm not interested, I don't care. But when they're going to release something useful to me, it gives me the chance to dwell on it for a while and devise a strategy for employing it when the time comes.

    They may also be concerned that people will switch to another provider of a similar service who has that feature available, or in the works. If tons of people are begging me for a feature and I know the competition has it, or may have it soon, I want my people to know "Hey, stick with me - I'm on it".

    Lastly, what I don't like Google doing is releasing half-baked products (Wave, Buzz, FriendConnect, etc), whose core features don't even work properly yet, while half of what they plan to do isn't even included, so that the rest of us can finish developing their software for them. The product is useless as is, and the "Buzz" is a "Buzz-kill" when you release you've completely wasted your time trying to implement it.

    Imagine all the kids sitting around the table at an 8 year old's birthday party as mom brings the half-baked, inedible cake to the table with no candles in it saying "Here you go everyone - look what I have for you!!!! All you have to do is finish baking it, decorate it, and light the candles!!!" Wow, thanks mom. You really know how to host a great party. Geez......

  11. I like Google Os/ It always comes with fresh ideas.

  12. @Brett

    great point. Google is in the end a business and i'm not saying it applies directly to this announcement, but they want to put it out there that something is coming soon so people will think "swithching all our data to this other server system would be more work and cost more than just waiting it out 1 month (and even if it gets delayed, 3 months) without that functionality we've been okay without for years and get it whenever Google's engineers are done. As a personal user, non-business related, i love when i log on and some new feature hits me like a ton of bricks. but for people who actually _pay_ for this stuff, preannouncements are kind of a big deal.

  13. "Google will announce some upcoming pre-announcements that will be posted in the coming weeks. Google's engineers are already hard at work writing blog posts about features that aren't yet available, but they'll be released at some point in the future."


  14. Google does what it wants to do. Its funny to listen to all this speculation LoL! Anyhow, Google's end-game about anything is to simply compensate themselves the best way they see possible.