Found this on Hacker News after I posted the previous link about Google’s cost cutting. Ron Amdeo from Ars Tecnica wrote this back in October 2014:
Google likes to have multiple, competing products that go after the same user base. That way, if one product doesn’t work out, hopefully the other one will.
Throwing shit at the wall to see if it’ll stick will work eventually but not the best strategy.
This multi-product approach is good for Google’s long-term health, but it also wastes a lot of resources. There is duplicate work going on all over the place, but if Google is flush with anything, it’s resources. Adsense and Adwords bring in so much revenue that, for now at least, the company can afford to be wasteful.
Guess it didn’t take long for this strategy to become wasteful. This reflected lack of focus, not a “hedging your bets” strategy. Curation is the most important thing about product design. Having multiple products you offer competing against each other is not “healthy competition”. It’s a sign of lack of unified product vision across the company.