That being said, I hope this does not mean they are killing off their research group. If they did I think it would be a colossally poor move on Google's part. While Google is famous for it's 20% time initiative its also infamous for having folks deny it or 'target' it (which is to say you can spend 20% of your time working on anything you want as long as it helps this department's goals) which made it difficult to be a source of innovation.
Edit: To make it clear - Not that anything is wrong with it. It's probably better for the company.
I'm wondering how this all /may/ fit into the long term view of patents for all parties mentioned here.
If an idea is born, and they have a good patent on it, there should be less to fear by having the idea out there in a public beta.
Perhaps they are all thinking patents might not work so well long term, or how patents work being tweaked due to public pressure about anti-competition.
(...and of course the dreadful waste of money revolving around patents, and especially enforcement.)
Edit: Uh oh, looks like it's spreading to me now. Here's something shiny to distract you: OS X Lion, iOS5, MacBook Air, App Store is better than Android.
Though, just today I was thinking: 'Well, Google with their young nerdy founders might just not care as much about profit.'
I hope Google won't sacrifice geeky projects like autonomous cars for better quarterly numbers.
The software alone is of limited value without access to the database. The current database of a subset of California's roads is about 20GB. They'll need to freshen it frequently, but renting access to the database is what I think the business model is in the long term.
I was just referring to the parent, that this step might indeed be an attempt to cut costs since the competition makes more profit. And if that is true than they might start cutting elsewhere, too.
When Sun Microsystems fell apart into SunSoft / Sun Labs / etc, Scooter called an all-hands meeting and told everyone to "stop hugging your tree". After the meeting, I complained to my manager (rxb) that I was never issued a tree. I just wanted my tree, like everybody else had. I promised not to hug it.
I prefer their open source page:
With projects such as closure, gwt, chromium, android,golang etc
...if it's actually Google-branded. Perhaps Google means to do its future experiments more like Searchmash, where the project just happened to be run by Google, but had no mention of Google anywhere on it.
If you look at Labs projects, many are pretty cool. Things like Google Groups came out of Labs.
Labs decision might be the stupidest decision yet execs have made there. They are investing huge in buying small start ups and they have even thing like Google ventures. It doesn't make any sense to kill of Labs.
If you want short term results, the policy of engineers working on their own pet projects 20% time is really fruitful, but the promising ones then need time and resources to become fully realized. I think thats where Google failed.
Maybe Google is inventing something better than Google Labs. I can see a successful approach being to sprout mini-labs around promising projects where the developer(s) get resources like additional developers, designers, market researchers, QA and the like. This of course sounds a lot like internal entrepreneurial startups, which havent been notably successful. I can hope that Google has something more innovative up its sleeve than the bottom line.
"We increasingly are only working on things that are actually very important. The day and age of idle, smaller things [at Microsoft] is a little bit behind us. We're putting more energy behind fewer things than we have historically."
Anyone know if there are any plans to open source projects like this, or if there's a way to get in touch with someone who could do so? I've submitted feedback to their feedback form, but I'm not sure if it will be seen.
I think some people who have replied to you are trying way too hard to make the metaphor fit. Top item later today will be about a Hacker Newsian with feathers, arrowheads, and a sharp edged rock, being arrested by Google's security while muttering about trajectories and wind resistance and trying to catch Googlers in the cafeteria.
Off to wikipedia...
Edit: Also, I should note that this tangential thread is why I love HN.
Weird metaphor indeed.
Perhaps it is a good metaphor for killing off a blue-sky lab after all.
Labs had an amazing run but Google surely needs to re-invent itself to handle the challenges ahead. Honestly, their setup is not that different from Microsoft where they have cash cows concentrated in several areas whereas Apple has more flexibility with a wider range of services without being spread out too much.
Nonetheless it may make google a less fun place to be if they do drop a bunch of people, and they surely will lose some of their tech buzz cred.
This does not feel like engineers in charge.
It feels like public relations people in charge.
(I realize this is about focusing energy on Google Plus, I'm just concerned they won't bring Labs back)