7.08.2007

Google: Sin of Lust

Is anyone else a little freaked-out by how seductive everything google does is? Microsoft was (and remains) always this kind of blundering behemoth, clinging to its early lead by forcing people to use newer versions of Windows and Office while desperately trying to convince them to use their other products, most of which are completely B- or C-list (the Zune, the Xbox, MSN, etc.)* They're kind of like a bully that has the computing world in a full-nelson, drooling into everyone's ears. For their entire corporate history, the only product lines they have that have made money are precisely Windows + Office, and those hold on only because it would be too expensive or difficult for most people and companies to ditch them.

Then there's google: everything google does for normal home-users is free, and it's all beautiful, polished, and compatible with whatever computing platform you want to use (Windows, OSX, Linux, whatever.) Google maps now has a drag-and-drop route planner and shows real-time traffic info. Blogger is free and does most of what other non-free blog sites (I'm thinking Typepad) do. Google Calendar is easy, pretty, and accessible from whatever computer you happen to be in front of. And, of course, Gmail is simply the best free e-mail provider out there, hands-down.

What makes me wary about all of this is that where MS's sins were pride and gluttony, google's is lust. You want to use google stuff. You want to put all of your personal information online in your calendar, send everything through gmail, check your trips on google maps, etc. I haven't used it, but I understand that the documents + spreadsheets thing they have online is just as sexy. As it comes out that google is holding on to all of this information for undisclosed periods, the question becomes how much of your life do you want to upload to one company, even one as seemingly benign as google?**

Recently, UCSC announced that it's considering outsourcing its e-mail system to google, which would provide a campus gmail system for free just to get the chance at branding e-mail for thousands of future money-making college students. Technical issues aside (i.e. it's pitiful that UCSC's IT structure can't handle something as bone-head simple as running an e-mail system), this strikes me as an iconic example of google-as-seductive-big-brother.

Just thinking outloud is all....

*Yes, I know that the Xbox is popular, but two things to ponder: MS continues to take huge losses on Xbox sales while trying to make the money back through games, and as of last month the Xbox 360 had cost MS over a billion dollars in repairs since so many of the damn things break.

**I'm well aware that being truly anonymous on the internet is nigh-impossible. I'm just interested in the fact that one company has become the center of so many people's (including my) electronic world.

P.S. Please nobody sue me. Also, no trolls in the comments. For real, though.

7 comments:

Queen Sieve said...

no... as much as I love Google, I couldn't handle another Google account...

The Goat said...

hey-- is it that the IT people can't handle email, or is it that decisions about their department are wholly out of their control? I was talking to Jay one day, and the sense that I got was that they have no say in just about anything...or is it irrelevant?

quixote said...

Googlezon is watching you. Beware.

kungfuramone said...

Goat: yeah, it's a management thing. I meant to say that it's pitiful that the IT structure / system can't handle it, not the techs themselves.

Working in an IT organization parallel to but not actually part of campus ITS has given me the impression that campus ITS is full of smart, competent techs, but ones who have a massive layer of middle management above them calling the shots and preventing anything from getting done.

The Goat said...

yeah, ok...you know, one of the things I've learned here (through you, kelly, and others) is that there is a huge lanyrinthine network of middle management, lower middle management, upper middle management, upper-middle middle management, etc., that no one ends up having the power to do anything, nor can they tell you where to go to get this problem fixed. Crazy.

What this makes me wonder is exactly how much traction the issue of red tape and bureaucratic confusion will have in privatizing the campus, or the UCs in general...any thoughts?

kungfuramone said...

I find the whole thing really confusing, honestly. The thing is, no one here could *admit* that the real reason they want to do it is because they can't get it together to run it themselves. It'll be sold in terms of total cost of ownership, since google's giving it away for free.

It's that fact that I find the most perversely fascinating, that branding alone justifies the cost. There's obviously a sociology and/or econ article waiting to be written here....

Rachel said...

I proofread a paper on global branding for a Master's student in Austria - most of which was redundant and a tad snore-inducing - but which pointed out the value of a global brand. I don't remember which company, but he made the case that a company sold for millions more than its book value because of its recognizable brand, and Coca-Cola's value as a brand is actually greater than its company book value.

So, not to mention the value of having that much private information available to you, Google has become a verb. :) They're very smart, aren't they? AND, aren't they the ones who refused to let the government see their files? So they got a PR win with that one.