Now that Microsoft has been pretty much neutralized as a threat, who’s next on the list to be free tech’s “public enemy number one?”
Oracle? While it’s true that the company is more thuggish than Redmond ever dreamed of being, Oracle has never really been a threat to anyone but the database and high finance crowds. Also, the company’s recent financials indicate the company, like Microsoft, isn’t what it used to be.
Apple? So long as it continues to be an overpriced walled garden, it’s not likely to pose much of a threat. It’ll always be held in disdain by free tech folks, but always in the number two position because it’s easily ignored.
My guess is that the company poised to win the most-hated-in-free-tech prize is Google.
Yeah, Google. The company that’s popularized two Linux distributions — or at least, two operating systems using the Linux kernel. The company that’s given consumers free use of Docs and Drive, and which owns and operates the servers where tens of millions of people store their photos and music — and for free unless they like music too much and need extra storage. Google, which through its browser gave Linux users the gift of Netflix — something of a trojan gift, to be sure, but a valuable gift just the same.
Free search, free Android, the free Chrome browser and free Chrome OS.
The trouble is that none of it’s free. We just don’t pay for it with cash.
Android and Chrome OS are open source, but locked into Google’s cloud services with the tightness of proprietary software. Their combined installed bases have turned free users into sizable market shares, both for Google’s core advertising business and it’s burgeoning cloud services.
The company currently controls the smart phone market in a way that would’ve done the Microsoft of old proud, and it’s cloud services are already pretty much essential to many consumers and businesses — and that’s only going to grow as cloud-based Chrome OS takes increasingly larger slices of the PC market pie, which it’s poised to do.
Chromebooks, of course, dominated the sales of laptops last Christmas, a trend that’s sure to continue as the devices have caught on in education in a way not seen since the days when Apple owned the academic market. And we’re now starting to see Chrome getting a big push on the desktop, in the all-in-one (AIO) desktop market, with Forbes reporting on Friday on Acer’s release of two AIOs under the name “Acer Chromebase.”
“The Google Chromebase comes in two varieties, one with a 10-point 21.5-inch touchscreen priced at $429 and one with a standard display of the same size that will carry a $329 price tag. Both will hit retailers this month. Acer also sees these units being used in a variety of business applications, particularly where space is at a premium.
“The AIOs were originally introduced on April 1, but this is the first time they will be available to U.S. customers.”
There’s little doubt that we’re going to see many more desktop Chrome machines, and by this time next year we’ll probably be reading stories about Chrome’s amazing rise on desktops as well as laptops. When that happens, when Google’s market share on the desktop rises to, say, ten percent, then we’ll know that the Microsoft era has finally ended.
Welcome to the age of Google: brought to you by a company that does amazing good on one hand, and which is a self serving monopolist on the other. A company that most of us kind of like, but with very deep reservations.
Google isn’t Microsoft and never will be, the difference being that Google truly tries to do the right thing and follow it’s self given mandate to “not do evil.” The trouble is, it rationalizes — which probably can’t be helped. At heart, Google is an advertising company, and advertising people are infamous for believing their own sales pitches.
Mixed in with all of the questionable things Google does are the things it does right, like its Summer of Code, its fight for Net Neutrality, its awesome support of FOSS projects, and Google Fiber’s bringing of high speed Internet to the masses. And Google will never have the type of market share on PCs that Microsoft once enjoyed, because desktop Linux is also poised to take a larger slice of the pie in this age when consumers are no longer afraid to try something other than Windows.
But as Google’s fortunes on the PC rise, it’s inevitable that we’ll see more anti-Google sentiment coming from the free tech crowd. While much of that sentiment will be deserved, much of it will be simply because we love to hate the big shots.
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