Google vs Apple in launching products

Chris Caceres · January 23, 2009 · Short URL:

Marissa Mayer of Google shares lessons on launching products

Launch early and often, use your technical insight to build great products, and recover as quickly as you can, were the key points Marissa Mayer emphasized in this episode of Lessons for Entrepreneurs with Bambi Francisco.  Mayer is the VP of search products and user experience at Google.  When she started working at Google, there were only nine engineers, working on a total of three different projects.  Soon that doubled to 18 working on six projects.  The rest is history.  Mayer was kind enough to share three key pieces of advice with the Vator community. 

1. Launch Early and Often.  Listen to user feedback.

Technology giants Apple and Google have very different methods in how they release their products. Mayer explained that Apple is a "Castle building company."  They keep their curtains closed, build and build, and release just what the market wants.  Apple does this well, but is taking risks because you never know when you can end up with a product totally different from what the market is really looking for. 

On the other hand, Google launches early and often.  They launch their products into Beta for a long time and respond to user feedback.  Mayer shares Google will, "launch again and get pulled back out of the vector and you can kind of bird walk your way there never getting very far back off the path, and you can do that by launching early and launching often."

2. Good Products Have Key Technical Insight.

Google Search focused on getting the right result first while other companies simply wanted to get it on the first page.  Google Search succeeded because of its superior ranking function.  Gmail offered 250 times as much storage space for free compared to its competitors.  Gmail succeeded in this area due to its low cost storage infrastructure which they had previously built for Search.  Mayer explains, "You take that technical insight and then you display it in the product in a way that there's real user benefit that no one else is focusing on.  That's how you innovate."

3. Recover as quickly as you can.

Google has had a myriad of great products but not all of them have succeeded.  Mayer explained, "we've made lots of mistakes over the years, Google video is classic example of a mistake."  Google set up a search engine based on still images from closed captions of television programs.  Providing searching throughout shows based on what was being said in the show.  It was a great idea until people started using it and complaining they thought they were going to be able to view the video and not simple still images from the video. 

"It's not about the mistake you made, it's about how you recover from it," said Mayer.  Google launched Google News without sort by date.  The users responded quickly with the request to add the feature and in two weeks sort by date was incorporated into Google News. 

Mayer closed with, "You can guess up front, get the basic framework of what you want, launch it in Beta, and then listen to the users, see what they want and see how the product has to adapt."

See video for full interview.

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