Google should learn from aerospace

As a self-confessed critic of the aerospace industry, I never thought I’d hear myself say this:

I think Google should take a lesson from commercial aerospace.

Google has abruptly decided to shut down its Google Reader tool, without replacement or merging the functionality into any other tool.

Just imagine an announcement like this from Boeing:

“Boeing announces today that it is withdrawing all support for the 767 line of aircraft, as of two months from now.  Operators of these aircraft will need to make alternative arrangements in support of their customers.”

Operators of these aircraft would be seriously inconvenienced and out-of-pocket. Some would find their very survival threatened.

There wouldn’t just be screams. There would be lawsuits.

There would be permanently lost customers.

The parallel is admittedly not perfect. Operators of aircraft manufacturers pay for their aircraft, have much more at stake, and have more political clout than users of Google Reader (who don’t pay a thing to use it).

I’m only aware of one possible instance of a major aircraft manufacturer doing something like this, and it was high-profile.

Ten years ago, British Airways and Air France pulled the plug on Concorde. Profit margins on Concorde operations were poor in a post-9/11 world.

However, it rapidly became obvious that Airbus was secretly pleased with the announcement. The A380 was in preliminary design phase, and engineering resources were stretched razor-thin. Diverting engineering support for Concorde to A380 design work was welcome.

IF (and it’s a big if) Airbus engineered the shutdown, they were mighty careful to avoid any appearance of failure to support their customers.

That Google isn’t even showing any shame demonstrates to me that they have forgotten the business fundamental:

Never take your customers for granted.

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