In How Google plans to rule the computing world through Chrome Peter Toffel describes a scenario for how Google plans to “take over” desktop computing by running more and more services — some exclusive — through its popular Chrome browser. The scenario might make sense if you’ve been paying attention to the increasing integration of ALL Google products and services with the social network Google+ as its backbone.
Whether you view this as nefarious or not is complex. You’ve got tech celebrities like Jeff Jarvis and Mike Elgan crowing about going “all Google.” The recent Google I/O conference was a love fest where Google’s Larry Page pondered out loud about how he wished everyone in the tech business could just get along better. Google continues to be a hotbed of new and exciting product development news.
What could possibly go wrong as Google tries to go down an “everything for everybody” path that sounds, to me at least, suspiciously similar to what Microsoft has attempted with diminishing success?
I have mixed feelings. Google+ is my social network of choice. I use Google Drive every day for file creation, storage, and sharing. Gmail, though bloated and clunky, does allow me to manage multiple email accounts and regular promotional campaigns. Google Search, of course, is everywhere. Google+ for iOS is one of the finest apps I’ve seen on the iPhone.
Still, I have cut back on my use of Chrome on my office’s Windows desktop machine and have been shifting more to Safari. While I like how Chrome synchronizes across platforms — I often use it via my Ubuntu Linux machine and occasionally use Chrome on my iPhone as well — Windows Chrome has become sluggish and does not render pages as quickly or as accurately (including Google+) as Safari.
I’ve turned Google Now off on my iPhone. I wasn’t getting much use out of it, its trip recommendations were rarely accurate, and it was draining my battery. I’m also pulling back from relying so heavily on Google+ for photo management and photo sharing, given the availability of alternatives that provide better editing and tagging features. I used to use Picasa a lot but its superior features have not yet been totally integrated with Google+.
Perhaps the prospect of Chrome “taking over” will be viewed by some as a good thing; another poke in Microsoft’s eye, perhaps? Yet, this increasing integration of everything, including social and mobile, by Google is potentially putting Google in the driver’s seat for managing not only what used to be an “open” internet” but for hardware-specific delivery devices as well.
Some will view this as good. Look at all the positive feedback Google Now for Android has received. Others will see the same moves by Google as inevitably restricting customer choice.
While I love Google and its free services, I am concerned that, if I don’t buy into the entire Google ecosystem, including the increasing linkage of web services with Google managed software and hardware, I might lose the ability to use more innovative or better performing applications. We already see this with iOS applications being delivered with less functionality than their Android brethren.
I used to think, along with most pundits on Google’s Google+, that the reason for that was simply Apple’s notorious insistence on keeping things “under its own control.”
Now I’m not so sure that Apple is entirely to blame. If you are building a fleet of services tied together by a social front end, coupled with algorithmic prediction and search engines in the back end that track and process online behavior as the basis for suggesting services and transactions, you’ll obviously, it seems to me, seek to maximize the likelihood that everything works together. Controlling the hardware and software points where people interact would seem a logical and reasonable strategy.
Perhaps that is exactly what Google is doing. Microsoft was never able to accomplish this integration and may now be suffering because of its failure to do so. Apple has attempted integration but is limited to its own devices. Now we have Google, better positioned than anyone else to tie everything together.
It’s an awesome opportunity. But just in my own case I’m seeing cracks around the edge where I’m not convinced that I want all the parts to be controlled by one entity. I’ve seen how the lack of choice over just cable TV and internet service leads to lousy service at the local level. What if such problems are scaled up by several orders of magnitude?
Copyright (c) 2013 by Dennis D. McDonald, Ph.D. Dennis is a Washington DC area consultant specializing in digital strategy, collaborative project management, and new technology adoption. His clients have included the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the US Environmental Protection Agency, Jive Software, the National Library of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering, Social Media Today and Oracle, and the World Bank Group. His experience includes the management of projects involving the conversion or migration of financial and transaction data associated with large and small systems. Contact Dennis via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 703-402-7382.