Google's great big Gmail app fail

Google just released its first Gmail app for the iPhone and iPad -- and promptly went splat. Maybe Google isn't invincible after all

After months of feverish anticipation, Google finally released its Gmail app for the iPhone and iPad -- the first dedicated Google mail app for the iOS platform. So it's time for a quick pop quiz:

The Google Gmail App for iOS is:

a. Amazing

b. Miraculous

c. Life-changing

d. So badly bollixed that Google had to pull it after two hours and apologize

If you answered d, then you've obviously been paying attention. Some two hours after unleashing the app unto the world, Google's Gmail Twitter account issued a tweeta culpa:

The iOS app we launched today contained a bug with notifications. We have pulled the app to fix the problem. Sorry we messed up.

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For a company that is currently in the throes of killing off the last product launch that failed in a similarly catastrophic way -- Google Buzz -- the timing could not have been worse. It seems Google's entire QA team was busy carving 1,000-pound Halloween pumpkins and failed to test the app before foisting it upon the world.

That, or this is all a fiendish plan by the App Store mandarins at Apple to make Google look bad, as they did when Apple "accidentally" posted a flawed beta version of the Google+ app in the iTunes App Store before replacing it with the correct one. Conspiracy theorists, start your engines.

Even if the app wasn't simply broken, it was such a dog that Google should have shipped it with a flea collar, judging from early reports. Case in point, Robert Scoble, who will eat anything that's fed to him via social media, can't stomach it:

The error isn't why I am totally disappointed. It has no features over the Web version. If you are going to release an app, at least make it more functional than the Web version.

Why waste everyone's time? Where are filters? Where's a new look? Where's the speed (it's pretty slow)? Where's the automatic loading of email? Why do I need to ask to see "more" email?

The bar is high for a company like Google. They did NOT meet it.

When Larry Page came to Steve Jobs asking for advice earlier this year, Jobs told the newly minted Google CEO to stop making so many mediocre products before Google turned into Microsoft. Page heeded the advice, killing off a dozen Google projects that were clearly headed nowhere, including the ill-fated Buzz. But clearly that was not enough. It seems Google's problems go deeper than being spread too thin. If it can't master a simple Webmail app after more than a year of work on it, then the search/ad giant has big problems, indeed.

What's Google's biggest problem? Serve up your thoughts below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "Google's great big Gmail app fail," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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