What’s next for Google Buzz and Google Docs? The company’s moves in (and out of) China have rightfully been the news of the week, but meanwhile Google’s VP of product management for Apps (aka everything but search and ads) Bradley Horowitz answered entrepreneurs’ questions about Google products at a dinner in Palo Alto, Calif. last night hosted by investor and advisor Dave McClure.
Horowitz, who said the motto he’s given his team is “We build apps for people, not markets,” said though Buzz stumbled out of the gate, Google is fully behind it as well as the general idea of improving products by making them social. “We can’t care about Google’s goal of organizing the world’s information without talking about people,” he said. Those mottos and goals are well-placed, but now Google has to prove it can actually put them to work in its products — especially considering the failings of Buzz 1.0.
Some of the key items on Buzz’s roadmap include “feature-full APIs,” an expansion of who and what people can follow on the service, and better relevance tools, Horowitz said. “Ultimately we’d like to provide something that’s a tool for managing attention.” That would require a few tweaks. First, would be a notion of following that’s “less Boolean,” where you don’t have to get all or nothing of a person’s updates. Buzz will try to predict whether you’ll find information relevant rather than giving you everything. Horowitz commented to the voluble McClure, “that would allow me to get the parts of your life I’m interested in and filter out…most of it.”
Second, the notion of following would extend beyond friends and people to brands and places, just like it does on Twitter, where any entity can have a profile, said Horowitz. He seemed to imply that Buzz could be combined or integrated with Google Reader. And third, Buzz will attempt to be bring information together in a way that means you have to visit fewer “silos and inboxes,” with the goal of “the opportunity to return time to people’s lives.”
Horowitz said that Buzz may find a way to make use of its original idea of autofollow, which pre-populated users’ Buzz profiles with their contacts and was the most widely decried feature. “Autofollow was really misunderstood,” he said. When Google can do a good job of interpreting signals and connections, “If control is there then they will opt in.” He also said he felt users reacted so strongly to Buzz because Gmail is so important to them. His analogy: “Would you really want someone to try out their new algorithm on a pacemaker?”
Lastly, on the topic of Google Docs, Horowitz said to expect multiple new launches in the coming year. He noted that the product was cobbled together from a variety of acquisitions — like Writely, JotSpot and Zenter — and there are more opportunities for integration across document types. “In 2010 you will really see them hum in tandem.”
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Photo (from a different event) courtesy Flickr user Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten.