Google Turns Off Bunsen Burner On Labs


Google says it's getting back to business.

The company said it plans to put "more wood behind fewer arrows" as a round-about way to say it is getting back to its core product plays. A major step in that re-focus for Google is the killing off of Google Labs.

Google Labs was a sort of incubator that let users try out early versions of potential Google products and share feedback with developers and engineers. Some Labs products would turn into full-fledged Google offerings.

But according to Google, CEO Larry Page is sharpening the company's focus.

"Last week we explained that we're prioritizing our product efforts," Bill Coughran, senior vice president for Research and Systems Infrastructure at Google, wrote in a blog post detailing the Google Labs shutdown. "As part of that process, we've decided to wind down Google Labs. While we've learned a huge amount by launching very early prototypes in Labs, we believe that greater focus is crucial if we're to make the most of the extraordinary opportunities ahead."

Some Google Labs projects and prototypes will be killed immediately, while some others will be wrapped into other Google products and product areas. Additionally, some Google Labs products will be ported over to Google Android and made available as apps in the Android Market.

Google cautioned that the closure of Labs is not a sign of innovation slowing.

"We'll continue to push speed and innovation -- the driving forces behind Google Labs -- across all our products, as the early launch of the Google Plus field trial last month showed," Coughran wrote.

Google added that it has no plans to change in-product experimentation channels like Gmail Labs or Maps Labs. Coughran said Google will continue to experiment with new features in all of its products.

Shutting down Google Labs comes as Page looks to re-focus Google to a set of core products across its main disciplines. Along with Labs, Google has closed down Google Health and Google PowerMeter.

"We've also done substantial internal work simplifying and streamlining our product lines," Page said during Google's quarterly earnings call last week. "While much of that work has not yet become visible externally, I am very happy with our progress here. Focus and prioritization are crucial given our amazing opportunities."

The move off of those product sets, Page said, lets Google focus on its core products and its new endeavors, which Page called "emerging high usage products" that will generate revenues, like Google's social networking answer to Facebook, Google Plus.

"Overall, we are focused on long term absolute profit and growth, as we have always been -- and I will continue the tight financial management we have had in the last two years, even as we are making significant investments in our future," Page said.

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