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Posts Tagged ‘Editorial’

EDITORIAL – Google’s expanding (evil?) empire

July 8th, 2009 4 comments

g-evil(Thanks to Parallel Divergence for the image!)

Google’s been on quite the update frenzy of late.  First they remove the beta label from a slew of their cloud apps, then they go and announce that they’re going where few have dared to tread and attempt to release a complete OS.  All within the course of two days!

Let me preface all my commentary by saying that I am a Googler.  They own my a**.  I live in Gmail.  My life is managed completely through GCal.  I have two sites I manage that are drivien by GApps.  I am moving more and more of my files into GDocs.  I now get 99% of my daily news and information via GReader.  I have a Google Voice number.  Most of my web surfing outside of work is done on Chrome.  I am so Googled, I may have their logo tattooed on my back.  Suffice it to say that I use their products to the point where they are indistinguishable parts of my life.  So I would be a natural for their OS right?

Well, not exactly.  What disturbs me about all this is that Google seems to be heading right where Microsoft was a few years ago.  At what point does Google become a defacto monopoly?  They already own something like 2/3 of all the world’s search.  I know their growth is slowing and they are looking for more ways to embed themselves into the fabric of our lives (especially our corporate lives).  And I totally agree with the arguments that Google’s various apps (mail especially) have been out of beta for the past year or longer, and that they only kept the beta tag so that the techies could claim to be using an “advanced” product.  Now that that tag is starting to hurt them in the enterprise sales market, they removed it from a bunch of apps that are at various stages of development.  Gmail is one thing but Google Voice?  C’mon – they only just started taking new requests for numbers.  If they followed the same approach with the GrandCentral acquisition that they did with all their other acquisitions, then they basically re-architected the whole thing to fit Google.  You can’t tell me they did that in a year to the point where it can be considered reliable from an enterprise perspective.

And that’s the key issue – there is no announced standard by which Google is declaring a technology as being out of beta.  Does the fact that Gmail is no longer in beta mean that my uptime guarantee is higher?  Or am I still at the “reasonable effort” level of service?  Many companies just won’t hand over critical infrastructure to Google (or any other outsourcer) for less than 99.999% uptime guarantees, and many cloud-based services just aren’t there.  And email, while vital, isn’t yet on the same level as phone service.  Can you imagine trying to dial a number and not being able to?  We can’t because (short of natural disaster or emergency), when we pick up a phone, we get a tone.  It’s so ingrained in us that we just assume it to be the truth.  Google’s not there yet.

At least with their OS ambitions, they are starting small.  A lightweight, web-centric OS is perfect for netbooks.  Even with XP, a netbook will get sloggy – so a super version of Chrome could do wonders for speed and performance of these primary cloud-focused products.  But what’s going to kill the G-OS (and most other web-centric OS’s) is that people don’t like being limited.  When they go to a web site, no matter what the platform, they want it to work.  When they get an application, they want to be able to use it.  Most users don’t want to think “is X compatible with Y”, which apparently is such a foreign concept to product designers and techies that to this day it continues to boggle them when people complain that stuff won’t work together.  The only company that’s really gotten the closest to “getting” this is Apple, and, with the release of the iPhone 3GS, we’ll see how long that singlemindedness lasts.  It’s very possible we’ll start seeing apps that focus exclusively on the 3GS because of its faster performance and enhanced graphics capability.  At that point, fragmentation can’t be too far behind.

So am I looking forward to the G-OS?  Yes, but I have my doubts as to its reception and success in the market.  And with each expansion of Google’s scope, I become more convinced that they will become our defacto overlords.  At least I’ll have identified myself to them as a loyal minion.

Categories: Reviews, Website News Tags: , , ,

EDITORIAL: Why Gizmodo is wrong

June 11th, 2009 1 comment

When the iPhone 3GS was announced, there was much rejoicing in the land of AppleFanboy.  This was quickly followed by cries of agony and despair when the denizens of AppleFanboy discovered how much it would cost them to experience the joys and wonders of the new hotness.  There was much gnashing of teeth and bemoaning of fates and whoas of me’s.  To which Gizmodo posted an excellent rebuttal:

Whiners of the World Shut Up About the iPhone 3GS Upgrade Price

Have you read this yet?  If not, please click the link and do so, then come back and read my rebuttal.

I agree that we all signed up for the two year contract.  I also agree that we knew that the price we paid at the time was the price with subsidy, and that it would lock us into the Death Star network for two years.  I also agree that this is how things have been in the cell phone industry since I don’t even remember when (and I’m old enough to remember when cell phones were roughly the size of a literal brick).  What I have a real problem with is how much this is in direct conflict with how Apple has built their little multimedia empire.

Apple has created a brand cachet around its products that are unequaled by any other consumer products company.  At the end of the day, an iPod/iPhone is no different than a RAZR or a Samsung MP3 player or a VCR – it’s a piece of spec equipment that has been subcontracted out to a Chinese manufacturer to piece together at the lowest possible price.  Apple has been able to use superior software and design as the basis of their entire existence.  That worked fine when software and design for every other manufacturer were done by the last remaining clan of Neanderthal Man left in the world, but the consumer electronics world is finally waking up to the fact that design and software matter, and are starting to focus attention appropriately.

The first shot across Apple’s bow was Android.  Granted, it was a weak shot, because Google can’t decide if it wants to be a competitor or partner, but that schism is going to go away at some point when the Android market actually has more than one model.  But where Apple really has to worry is the WebOS of the Palm Pre.  For the first time there is a credible competitor to the ease of use claim that Apple has been touting.  Sure it’s got its flaws, but so did the first iPhone.  And unlike Apple, Palm is a Vegas hooker.  It’ll put its models on any network that will have it.  At some point, Palm is going to be free of the Sprint anchor, and then Verizon or even AT&T will get a Pre-like device.  If Palm can continue to evolve its handset design and incorporate various form factors, then all of a sudden the iPhone isn’t all that special.  I know for a fact that if I can get a Pre-like device on Verizon’s network I’ll drop my iPhone without missing a beat.

I bring all this up because the one thing that Apple had over every other brand was its base of ravening fanboys/fangirls.  It was a guaranteed universe of slavish believers who would clamor to buy the latest/greatest Apple device just because it had a bitten piece of fruit as its logo.  It is this group of people that made each product a success – they would buy it and show it off to friends and family and act as unofficial FREE brand ambassadors.  You can’t buy that kind of loyalty.  But you can screw it over.

Let’s face it – the iPhone 3GS taken in and of itself isn’t all that spectacular an advance.  OK so now I get a video camera and 3MP still camera and Voice Command and Nike+ integration and faster speed, both network and processor-wise.  Big deal.  Are these things so amazing that any normal person would rush out to upgrade their existing iPhone 3G?  No.  In fact I would wager that a lot more iPhone 3G’s are going to be sold at the $99 price point than iPhone 3GS’s will be at the 199/299 price point because a lot of the people that really want an iPhone already have them.  And outside of the fanboy universe, people are pretty price sensitive.  If I’m getting an iPhone for $99, I will make do without the video camera.  And how the heck am I going to know what “faster processor” really means in day-to-day use, especially since Apple doesn’t allow multitasking?

This long discussion brings us back to why Gizmodo, despite its excellent article, is wrong.  Apple, by shortchanging its fanbase, has limited the number of people who will automatically upgrade.  Sure AT&T pays Apple for each phone sold, but surely Apple could have taken a little less kickback to allow its existing 3G base to upgrade at a more reasonable price point.  If they follow this approach for future models, they pretty much guarantee that people will skip every other iPhone generation.  And every year that goes by means one more year where Palm or Google can refine their OS’s and catch up with (or surpass) the almighty house that Jobs built.  At some point, these pocket computers (as Giz rightly points out) will be so powerful that the need to upgrade will not be compelling.  Yes techies will want the latest and greatest and fastest.  But how many techies are there?  How many techies do you know that build or buy a new PC every year?  How many people have computers that are two, three, five plus years old and don’t miss a beat?  Not everyone NEEDS to upgrade.  But those fans who upgraded for love of the brand will no longer do so because they can’t afford to, and once pricing becomes a big factor in upgrade decisions, then you better put some compelling stuff into each iteration, or people won’t buy it.  And once Apple starts on that merry-go-round, it’s going to be awfully hard to get off.

Categories: iPhone Tags: ,