Sunday 16 November 2014

Microsoft and Google reversed

Microsoft has got quite a bad name for itself in many tech-circles. It's seen as a big profit-focused corporation, and instead of the amusing April Fool's jokes that Google treats us with, it gave us things like Clippy and the Blue Screen of Death (BSoD). Microsoft is also no stranger to Vendor Lock-In - people hate some of its products, but use them anyway for compatibility.

Google has always gone to great lengths to show that it is not like this. "Don't be evil" is it's first and foremost motto, and its employees wear jeans instead of suits. Occasionally it messes up. For example, Google recently sent thousands of cars driving around the world to collect imagery for Google Maps. A "bug" in the image collecting code meant that the cars also collected and stored all open WiFi data. But that was just a mistake, and everyone except Germany laughed about it.

But now? Things seem to be changing. Or completely reversing, possibly. Microsoft announced plans to open-source the .Net Framework, released free Android and OSx Office Apps, and told us about plans to support Android development in its next version of Visual Studio, a version which will have a free "community" edition. And Google released Google Inbox, yet another take on Email, which only works with Chrome and only if you have a phone running Android (yes, you actually need the Android phone to "activate" Inbox, even to use the Desktop version, for which you need Google Chrome.)

Google also showed off the power it holds over billions of people with Google Plus. Everyone hated it. It was a rehashing of Facebook, and no-one wanted to move. Now, everyone has a Google Plus account. Why? Because Google became the Jehovah's Witnesses of the Internet. There was barely a safe-place to visit without highly irritating alerts telling to you sign up for G+. When even that didn't work, Google automatically signed the survivors of the resistance up.

And yet Google is not even mentioned on the Vendor Lock-In page linked to above.

Unfortunately it's already too late. Google's products work too well with each other for complete abandonment. Google searches are faster in Chrome. Google Now tells me when to leave my house in order to catch my plane in time automatically. It finds my ticket in Gmail; uses my map data to work out where I live; uses others' map data to work out if there's traffic; it knows my preferred means of transportation, and it knows if the plane is delayed. What would take me hours to find out manually is told to me when I need it without any effort. And then there's good old search for which Google originally became famous. I can just mash the keyboard almost at random and I'll get the results I'm looking for, whereas other search engines require me to carefully think about the search terms or they return completely uninteresting results. I tried "going Google Free" a while back, and switched to Firefox and DuckDuckGo. It was a disaster.

In conclusion, I hate Google and their new tactics. But it's too late. "The emperor has already won".

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