Posted by Calixte Pictet | 0 comments
Google in the open
Something ticked in my brain as I was reading Florian Wardell’s comment in a discussion following the article he wrote about Chrome OS. It went like this:
“Well, Chrome OS *will* only run web apps. It’s been stated by Google. I’m not saying that you can’t run a non-google webapp, but then again, it comes to the expense of interface continuity.”
Spot-on. If Microsoft made it hard for applications to integrate the Windows desktop well, I’d bash them as hard as I could. Of course, it’s different for Google. They are not really entering the software business with Chrome (the OS, but that goes for the browser too) but rather encouraging people to use the cloud, therefore pushing the SaaS* business into more visibility.
That puts Google on the good side of the evil line. A (theoretical but impossible) monopoly of Google Chrome on the OS market would make no money for google per se. Chrome OS is only a channel that will direct customers to Google services. Google looks good because it is almost giving away its OS, and all its applications are on an open platform (the Internet). That does make a difference. If you use Windows, and you specifically need a certain app on that OS, you’ll have to continue giving money to Microsoft, even if that application was not strictly developpeed in Redmond. On the web, that is a different matter. You want to swich search engine? It takes less that 10 seconds. Swich email provider? I’d give you ten minutes to forward all your Email to your new webmail provider. Maybe thrice as much for documents.
Yes, you may be under Google’s control in regards to your personal file, but you yourself are much less in their power. Nothing really keeps you using their services.
That doesn’t mean Google is safe from accusations of “evilness”. Google gains an non-negligeable advance on other SaaS providers (like Zoho for example) because their services will integrate themselves well in the OS and between themselves. The prime example of this is the user login system in which Chrome asks you to login with their google account. It was inevitable. Google had to do it, and it benefits the user almost as much as Google. But it gives an advantage to Google that seams unfair. Regarding Zoho, that’s slightly negligeable because they have a “login with Google Account” feature, but there’s more to it.
If you use Gmail, Google Wave, Google Search, Google Maps, and Google Groups, will you really want to use Zoho for word processing? If it’s not for account integration, what about the “interface continuity” as Florian Wardell calls it?
Google is toeing the line between “unfair competition” / “monopolistic behavour” and serving themselves. Of course Google is not going to make an OS for it’s competitors, so at which point is Google going do become evil? Or is it already?
I believe Google should open-source some key elements of its interfaces. But then again, giving too much away to it’s competitors would just be plain stupid. Google is obviously trying to be the good guy, and is obviously having a hard time being it. Where’s the limit?
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*Saas means Software as a Service, i.e. web applications.