Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Joining the Don't-Be-Evil Empire

iPhone 3G (left), Nexus One (right)
I’m entering the Google ecosystem during the next few weeks.  The catalyst: someone gave me an unencumbered Nexus One, Google’s  Android phone released last January.  Your humble (cheapskate) servant can’t resist the opportunity to use a “free” $529 piece of equipment;  before I follow the herd of Apple customers into the iPhone 4 corral, I’ve moved my AT&T simcard from the two-year-old iPhone 3G to the Nexus.

To give Google a fair shake I’m using its other offerings such as the calendar and contact list. I’m also trying out other applications, such as Voice and Docs, that can be accessed from non-Android equipment as well as PC’s and Mac’s.  (Blogger, on which this blog is written, is owned by Google.)

I have the sneaking suspicion that fewer problems will arise on Android phones as the Google products evolve. If consumers find products like Google Maps and Google Earth to be indispensable, and the products work better on Android, it doesn’t bode well for the iPhone, Blackberry, and competing smartphones.  There’s a parallel with Microsoft’s demolition of Lotus 1-2-3, WordPerfect, and Netscape by Excel, Word, and Internet Explorer, respectively, but there Microsoft was leveraging its operating system dominance into applications, while Google is trying to do the reverse.  However, Google is operating in a more competitive landscape that the Microsoft of yester-year.

The bigger worry is that Google will violate customers’ privacy by exploiting its trove of user data for commercial reasons.   As the WSJ wrote about yesterday, the explosive growth of Facebook and social-networking sites, where exhibitionism more than circumspection seems to be the norm (yes, I’m a FB member), will probably make Google step over a line it had hesitated to cross. As Google and certain politicians are finding out, it’s easy to see and condemn “evil” in others, not so easy when you have to make tough decisions about which principles are more important because you can’t abide by all of them.
© 2010 Stephen Yuen

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