Let me state from the outset that I use and like Google as a search engine. Every day I use it countless times and it always does what I require of it, whether it’s using the built-in calculator or converter or just finding a cheap hotel. But that’s where my love affair with Google begins and ends. With each passing day I get increasingly frustrated with Google’s attempts to enter yet another market, from smartphones to the self-driving car. Most of my derision stems from the fact that Google is a jack of all trades and master of none – well perhaps one: search. Rather than trying to just perfect one area, Google is dumping products in multiple areas to spread its name and increase its revenue, but let’s not forget that Google is, really and truly, little more than an advertising company, getting over 90% of its income from adverts. In fact, Google reminds me of the Trapper Keeper in South Park – technology trying to take over the world.
Let’s start with Android. I remember first trying this operating system out a few years ago, and it was so confusing to navigate that I didn’t even spend long using the demo phone in a store. I have used every version since and my opinion hasn’t changed much. Google didn’t build Android, it simply purchased it, and despite its huge success it hasn’t made many advancements. With the recent revelation that over 99% of Android phones leak personal data http://www.tgdaily.com/security-features/56011-do-android-smartphones-leak-data it’s without doubt fair to say that the operating system simply isn’t fit for purpose. When it comes to Android there’s a lot of half-truths, to put it mildly. Google claim it’s open source, when only a relatively small section of it is actually open – that it’s more open than iOS is not reason enough to claim it is ‘open’. There’s also the mention of it being a Linux OS, when it has nothing more than a Linux kernel, but listen to all the hype and you’d think it’s a full Linux distro like Nokia’s Maemo 5.
Despite advancements in smartphones, Android still needs an overhaul. The multitasking is just barely beyond a joke, especially when it comes to web browsing, where you do another task, go back to the web only to find it’s lost your page. With no native task killer you can’t simply close an app from the multitasking pane, and Android still thinks it’s acceptable to leave things running live until it itself deems it suitable to close something – so you either have things running you don’t want, or you leave something important open to view later and Android will close it. On your behalf, of course. There’s also the well documented fragmentation issue that I won’t go into here because most people are already well aware of it. Android is largely popular because it’s flooded the market with devices, so for many people looking for a new contract it’s really the only option. We are now seeing bigger processors, with the Samsung Galaxy S II being dual-core, which many people think is great – except for the little problem that Android isn’t optimized for dual-core. Android is a poorly coded system and rather than fix the code at the source, the band-aid approach is utilized by just putting in larger processors, which improves the usability of the phones somewhat but also makes them more expensive and kills the battery that much faster. How badly coded is Android? This video a comparison between Nokia’s N8, running a single processor at 680MHz, and the dual core Motorola Atrix 4G.
As can be seen, the N8 is faster and smoother in many areas, even, surprisingly, just at rotating photos. If a single 680MHz processor outperforms a dual core 1GHz processor then there’s no denying Android has some serious coding problems. Part of this problem stems from the fact that Android doesn’t actually run from the hardware, but rather from a virtual machine, so extra processing power is required just to overcome this and make it run somewhat smoother. However, as the video shows, an efficient, optimized OS that runs directly from the hardware is a much better option, and the smaller processor allows for longer battery life and a cheaper price on the devices. Perhaps my biggest concern though is that whenever something is installed from the Marketplace you must agree to allow it access to all your data and information. Why is this necessary? Whether or not there’s a conspiracy to use all my information to frame me as a serial killer, the fact is I’m just not happy giving my data to a company. I don’t want targeted ads, thank you very much. I don’t want any ads actually, I want to just open an app and do the task I need to do. It is not necessary to sign over all privacy just so I can read the news headlines. Perhaps this wouldn’t be such a big issue if it were another company, but let’s face it, Google has a dire track-record with private data.
Then there’s Chrome. Again, this isn’t something Google built from scratch but acquired from Chromium (seeing a pattern here?). I used Chrome for some time when Firefox was giving me headaches with its sluggishness and large memory footprint, but I was forced to revert back because Chrome was crashing on me frequently. It’s hard to say much bad about browsers, they just surf the web, but the real question is why did Google need to release Chrome anyway? Chromium already existed, still does in fact, so this looks like just another attempt by Google to get its grubby, privacy-leaking fingers on another technology release to get its brand recognized and trusted.
Lastly, we have Chrome OS. I have no idea how it can be called an OS when it’s actually nothing but the browser. Google call this evolution, I call it regression. With Chrome OS there is nothing on the computer, everything is stored online. Everything. It works by storing everything on the cloud – except it isn’t so much a cloud as ‘store things in various locations on the web’. Great huh? Except that we can already store things in various locations on the web, and also have local copies on the hard drive should we need them – and I don’t know about you guys, but I want my work only on my computer and not in cyber-space for someone to hack into. The recent PlayStation security breach is a pretty perfect example of why we shouldn’t entrust everything to the web, especially with a company like Google with less than optimum infrastructure (remember when a bunch of Gmail users had their inboxes accidentally wiped recently?).
So with Chrome OS everything you own on a computer is stored in cyberspace and, Google being Google, you’ll have to agree to a disclaimer that states you give Google permission to access all your personal data. Think for a moment of how much personal data and information you actually store on your computer – private photos and videos, work documents, business plans, important contacts and reminders, schedules and so on. Do you really want Google – or anyone – having full access to that whenever they want?
A computer running Chrome OS is fully dependent on the internet, so God forbid you forget to download an important presentation to the small hard drive for offline editing or printing and find yourself in an area with no internet connection – and let’s get real, there are still a lot of places where you don’t have internet access. Then, like notebooks, there’s no CD or DVD drive, so no longer can you burn data discs or just stick a DVD into your laptop in the hotel because the room doesn’t have Wi-Fi so you can’t access anything. When out of internet range, what you have is an expensive paper weight – nothing more and nothing less.
Truthfully, I would welcome a day when Google ceases to exist. Nokia Maps 3D is so much better than Google Maps, Gmail is used by many people but a lot of people change email accounts anyway, Chrome users can go to Chromium (or any other browser out there), Android will lose out to more functional and more open and more privacy concerned operating systems like, if all goes to plan, MeeGo, and Chrome OS shouldn’t even get a look in.
Like most people, I use technology for the convenience it offers, in many different ways. But what I’m not prepared to do is sacrifice my privacy, especially when the alternatives are cheaper, better managed and respect my right to privacy. I cannot and will never trust a company whose CEO said that only people with something to hide worry about privacy.