How can I defend Google while slating Apple? How can someone put Apple down for their “we know better” walled-garden approach to the AppStore, the iPhone and iPad, while on the other hand defend Google’s invasive “if you need something to be private, you probably shouldn’t be doing it in the first place” attitude? It’s a tough one, honestly. Google is by no means perfect, but there are key differences to the way these companies operate and while I believe that they’re both “the devil you know”, I do feel at least that Google is somewhat more defensible than Apple.
If I’m trying to rent a movie :
Apple demands that I do so via iTunes and puts barriers in front of any other way, while Google wants to know what kind of movie it is so that they can suggest alternatives and profile my preferences for better targetted ads.
If I’m trying to buy a new PC:
Apple tries to sell me a Mac, an iPad or an iPhone, while Google doesn’t care because their products don’t often care what your platform is. Plus, my choice of PC will help better target ads in future.
Google’s approach is slightly insidious, creepy even. But Apple’s narrowminded focus on selling more Apple, at any cost, just leaves me cold. Like AOL in the late 90’s, they seem to be intent on ignoring the internet-at-large and redefining it to suit their purposes. Vetting their appstore, denying competing technology, insisting on a mac-only development model, promoting Fairplay DRM, insisting that iTunes is your sole portal into your devices… it’s all about control – the control that Apple has over what you can see and do on the products they sold you, usually so that they can sell you more products.
After the fact, I don’t believe it feels like ‘owning’ an Apple product – it feels like renting, or leasing. First generation products are intentionally crippled to ensure that next year’s model is a must have and despite the fact that this policy spits in the eye of their most loyal followers, the Apple fanbois lap it up and open their wallet year on year.
How about “insidious and creepy” Google? If you’re not careful after you sign up for a Google account, they’ll know nearly everything about you. Simply by signing on with their latitude service for example, they can deduce where you work by noting your position from 9am to 5pm most week days. At least they’re not shy about admitting it, but it’s still a big deal. And their approach to privacy over the years has proven to be only slightly better than Facebook, themselves the undisputed masters of privacy cock-up. It still surprises me that Google’s high profile blunders with Buzz and Streetview didn’t harm their brand far more. Dont’ people get it? Don’t they realise how invasive this stuff is?
So, really, this is an imperfect choice between two high profile monopolists. But I will never accept that a faceless corporation knows better than me when I chose a course of action and I will therefore never own another Apple product during my life.
Google might know what I’m doing in the near to mid-term future, but at least they won’t judge me while I’m doing it.