Let me quickly say that this has nothing to do with my Catholicism. This blog is confessional, but not confessional.
I’m responding to another set of beliefs in my life, one which has formed much of my teaching and interaction with technology for the past several years. As with most disillusionments, this came on slowly, starting with irritations, growing to disappointment, and blossoming in questioning. Finally, I couldn’t deny it any more, and I said out loud (via Twitter) what I had not yet completely admitted to myself.
“I don’t know if I believe in Google any more.”
Now, I need to clarify, I have loved many Google products. No matter where this googlagnosticism goes, I will still use many Google apps and recommend them to others. Google search is like oxygen for cyber travel (I can’t believe that I used such a lame expression). Google docs is a million times simpler than Sharepoint, and probably the best collaboration tool. I also have always liked Google’s ability to provide free tools for educators, businesses and others.
But two areas in particular have shaken my confidence and made me question my love affair, and both have to do with dependability.
If you go back in the archives of this blog, you will see how excited I was by the release of Google+. I saw in this filterable social sharing tool the answers to Facebook’s weaknesses. The ability to create and broadcast to specific circles is genius, and I saw great possibilities for creating discussion groups with colleagues, or even possibly between teachers and students. Lots of little details, like the ability to edit posts and the ability to create longer posts made me think that this was truly a Facebook killer. I encouraged all my friends to leave Facebook and start using Google+. It was a revolution, a Googlepocalipse.
But what happened? I notice now that weeks go by when I don’t open Google+, and longer than that without posting anything. This experience is shared by the few friends who have come over. Somehow Facebook and Twitter continue to be a more satisfying and useful experience. Google put out this exciting new platform, but they haven’t put the time or money into making the case to the general public as to why they should use it. Likewise, Google is yet to make an application that makes Google+ fully functional on the iPad. Interestingly, there is now a Verizon commercial showing how to use circles with the Samsung Nexus, but there isn’t any reference to Google+ (if that is what this commercial is showing). I am somewhat apologetic to the people I invited over and feel like my credibility has been lessened by this whole experience. Google+ may survive (in a recent development, Google is finding a new and annoying way to integrate your search results with your Google+ account), but there is a perception at least in my circle that this one more WAVE or BUZZ…a great idea going nowhere.
And what about the Chromebook? A little more than a year ago, in the midst of the netbook craze, Google announced that it was building a lightweight operating system designed to work solely as a web interface. This new chrome operating system would reside on notebook computers called netbooks. By embracing the cloud for all operating functions, the new device was going to be lighter, faster, and with better battery life.
And what happened? First, lots of time passed. Google itself seemed uncertain how the Chrome OS fit in with Android development, and certainly couldn’t make this case to the casual user. Chromebooks are now being released, but the silence behind this release is deafening. No public campaign, no splashy release to schools, no advertising in the mainstream press. So it appears that Google has released a device that solves yesterday’s problems in a form factor that no one wants.
In general, I have this nagging suspicion that Google no longer has its finger on the pulse of users and doesn’t know how to explain itself to them. When a great product like Google+ dies on the vine, and a product like the Chromebook arrives with a thud, you can’t help but to be wary of jumping on the Google bandwagon so quickly.
I’m not sure that I’m making the case that well, but as usual, I welcome your comments.