Since Google bought the Urchin company in 2005, and since then has been extremely quiet about the upgrade Urchin promised in late 2004. The Urchin 6 upgrade has never been released, though the Google Analytics website says, “Urchin 6 software will not be free when it is released.” It goes on to say that customers who purchased extended service contracts that have expired will be offered a free upgrade, though there is no indication at all of the product’s release date, now approximately three years overdue.
Current customers are getting antsy about Google’s keeping mum, and it certainly would worry me if I had spent $10,000 of company money on an analytics package and support service with an upgrade that never came. Not to mention, part of the reason would have been to develop a relationship with the software company, which was bought out only a few short months later. Such is what happened United Diamonds, Inc., a 25-employee diamond vendor based in Sun City, California. They spent thousands of dollars on a software package with service contract and upgrades promised, and then lost their business relationship with Urchin when it was bought, and the upgrade was already a few months overdue at the time of Google’s purchase.
Google has historically preferred the Software As A Service (SAAS) model over packaged software, as it keeps installation-related technical support requests at bay (they are just about nonexistent) and gives everyone instant access to updates when they are released. However, Google is very quiet about its release schedules for products, never announcing new versions until they are released. Various blogs run by Google staff members announce minor feature additions and security-related bug fixes, but version-related commentary is distinctly absent.
The recent graduation of Google Reader from the Labs testing ground (written up in a humorous letter on the Reader blog) was unknown until it actually happened, as was the search box released a couple weeks beforehand. User feedback seemed like it was being ignored when Google was actually working on features behind the scenes. They just didn’t tell anyone about them.
Google might be able to keep free customers happy, but if they start delaying new releases for years on corporate customers, such as Google Apps Premier buyers, some consumers might become disgusted with their no-announcement policy and go somewhere else.