When a company becomes very wealthy, it has two choices. Use the money for mischief or use it for something worthwhile and earn our respect. I’m not liking the direction of Google these days.
It seems like there’s not much good news about Google anymore. In previous times, Google was just a big search company that offered a variety of free services. In time, we learned that Google has been data mining our e-mail in order to give us beter search results, more targeted advertising, and, of course, earn even more money.
I don’t know about you, but being a fan of Apple, I’ve grown accustomed to feeling good about companies I do business with. I like companies that earn my business with products I like, then treat me well as a customer. I’m not feeling that about Google these days.
1. Google+ as National Identity Service. For those who haven’t noticed yet, Google+ has not merely positioned itself as a more secure version of Facebook. We found that out when Eric Schmidt, Google’s Executive Chairman, over the weekend, revealed that Google+ is fundamentally designed as a national identity service — so that Google can better profit from us by offering financial services. To read more about this, I recommend these articles.
- Google Wants to Own Your Identity
- Google Confirms It Aims to Own Your Online ID
- The NSTIC, you, and me (and Google?)
I can see how the U.S. government may be reluctant to roll out a national identity program. There has been huge resistance to that from many circles. Leveraging off the public sector may seem like a good idea, but I’m not in the mood to have a company seeking to acquire even greater wealth based on knowing a whole lot more about me. According to the author of the BusinessWeek article above, “If people want to remain anonymous, he [Schmidt] said, then they shouldn’t use Google+.” Sounds good to me.
I think what’s driving modern advertising is that it’s just too hard to insert your ideas and products into people’s lives. There’s too much going on. When people do have some free time, they tend to insulate themselves from intrusions. A good example of this is the fact that we spend far too much time skipping over TV commercials on the DVR, throwing away junk mail, and suppressing pop-up ads in our browser. We have our own agenda in life. We should.
The only way to get around this annoying human behavior is to more fundamentally connect to customers, insert your company irretrievably into their lives, and prevent them from ignoring you. However, the intrusion must be subtle, remain in the guise of cool technology and not appear too creepy. Hence, Google+.
2. Oracle vs. Google
From what I’ve been able to gather, combined with some input from an attorney who’s been following the case along with me, Google is in big trouble in the lawsuit brought by Oracle, based on the infringement of Java as used in Android. It seems a Google engineer was tasked to find alternatives to Java, for Android, and concluded, “ they all suck.” The attorney wrote extensively to me on this, and I’ve excerpted below.
After the incriminating email from a Google software engineer to Andy Rubin — stating that, because there were no viable alternatives to Java, Google needed to either license Java or proceed without a license and be prepared to defend that act — was widely reported and disseminated,
Google in a desperate effort to prevent that email and any version of it from being admitted into evidence tried to claim that the email was a privileged communication under either the attorney-client or work-product privilege.
The magistrate judge hearing the matter was unpersuaded by Google’s arguments. She noted that Google’s claim of privilege failed to meet the requirement that the communication be a communication to a legal representative … made to the legal representative for the purpose of receiving legal representation….
The only reason that Google tried so desperately to claw back the incriminating email, which we all know the contents of, was to keep it out evidence so that Oracle couldn’t use it for any evidentiary purpose or for any purpose in discovery, because if that email enters the record, Oracle will use it not only to eviscerate Google’s deponents, including Larry Page, on deposition but will also use it with devastating effect at trial. With such clear evidence of Google’s intent to infringe, both Judge Alsup and/or the jury will [no longer have] any doubts.”
The conclusion drawn from this turn of events is that: “It is interesting that … the press in general and the tech press in particular seem not to notice or fully appreciate the impending crisis for Google’s Android OS, for if Oracle’s proves its infringement claims on any of its broad patents in Java that are in suit, Google could be facing an injunction covering the entire U.S. that could ban the sales and/or distribution of all versions of Android, at least the sequestration of all devices running Android, and a damage award for past infringement in Oracle’s favor that could range in the billions of dollars.”
Licensing Java would have been a whole lot cheaper. Perhaps a few hundeed million for the purpose Google hand in mind. The funny thing is, the wealthier a company gets, the more miserly it becomes. And, of course, power becomes an end in itself.
No one knows for sure how this case will turn out. Large, powerful corporations often find ingenious ways to sidestep legal disasters. Whether Google can dodge this bullet is really irrelevant, however, in the grand scheme of things.
What’s more interesting to me is that a wealthy, powerful corporation with very smart engineers can now figure out new and ingenious ways of throwing its weight around, bending our lives (and other corporations) to its will, and refusing to allow us to go our own way in life. In the name of progress and prosperity, with sufficient funds, any goal can be achieved. The question I have is, how should we respond to that? How can we develop the proper ways of thinking about how we do respond — if we choose to at all?
Of course, I’m not a technical Luddite. I have embraced just about every technical advancement brought along, especially those by Apple. My wife has an iPad. I have an iPad. I’m slowly converting my paper magazine subscriptions to the iPad. I love Twitter. I do some electronic banking. I do things with my iPhone that amaze our friends.
But as you’ll see from the Eric Schmidt video, there is no longer any component of consideration for the human and spiritual element of our lives when business and money are the sole value. We are simply devices on the Internet to be manipulated, exploited, and bent to the will of very large corporations. The one thing that Steve Jobs taught us, in spades, is that the human touch, that personal sensibility of design and excellence, and connection to the human spirit is essential. That’s how Apple earned my respect. This is why Apple is a great corporation and Google is simply becoming the juvenile delinquent of the Internet.
Somewhere along the line, individuals have to draw a line in the sand. They need to say, this is how I’m going to live my life, build my relationships, preserve my privacy, leverage essential technology, maintain my independence and dignity, and reach out to actually help others. I wish I could feel that Google, for all its mightiness, were making the world a beter place to be in. That’s not what I’m seeing from my own technical and spiritual viewpoint.