The problem, I’m beginning to think, is simply mismatch. The core services of Google’s business are often not the Google services I rely on most. And even when their core products and my needs do meet, the business connection is indirect.
It’s that last clause that nails it – this notion of the indirect relationship. What Google’s users perceive as Google’s products is not how the company actually makes its money; their users’ information does that. This is not a subtle point. You pay Dropbox for storage (or use it for free, but it’s the same principle that makes the company their money), and that’s all they do. You may also pay Google for extra email capacity, but they couldn’t care less about providing that service; it’s a means to an end. As long as they can make their baubles shiny enough (and of course free), they will always be assured wide adoption. But this isn’t a “surprise and delight” level; it only has to be good enough for Google to get its hooks into their users’ data. This is the reason why every attempt for Google to create an actual product (Nexus Q, Chromebook Pixel) that people could buy have been laughed out of the market. It’s also the reason why every Spring, when Google kills their unprofitable “free” services, so many people realize that they get what they pay for.