After all the hype, the Google announcements at CES were sad: Google Pack and Google Video.
I can see why the Google CEO was wary about releasing Pack; it isn't a big deal, especially with it being limited to running on Microsoft's current OS. To make it significant, it should have been made work on all three OSs -- that would have been a better PR move. At least they could'v'e named it Google Shovelware, after seeing the six-month version of Norton software included. Six months of security? I see the handprints of marketing people all over that one.
In any case, Pack suffers from the computing Catch-22: those who know about the software in the Pack collection already run most components; those who need it won't know enough to download it. Windows Supersite discusses each program in more detail, point out the pros and cons of each -- and there are many cons.
After you've viewed a dozen funny free videos, Video quickly becomes tedious. In its rush to sell more hardware and software, the industry has lost sight of why some entertainment works and some doesn't: the concentration factor:
- Listening to music requires very little concentration; hence, the popularity of music devices. Also, music has a universal format, MP3.
- Reading requires some concentration; I speed read by skipping entire sentances, but I can also back up if I miss a point. More accurately, reading occurs at a completey variable speed.
- Listening to talk (ie podcasts and talk radio) requires more concentration, because missing a single word can lose the entire context of the discussion.
- Movies require the most concentration, because (1) your eyes (and body) have to be directed to one location (mobility is restricted) and (2) you have to concentrate on the talk. Plus (3) there is no universal format, but a confusing litany of acronyms. In any case, PVRs have already shows that video-on-the-go is a failure.
At least I was dead-right on my counter-prediction that there would be no Google PC. So they showed MIT's $100 computer. I predict that the project won't get off the ground, because it only makes sense for these self-interested parties:
- those who benefit PR-wise by having their names associated with it.
- those who benefit from collecting donations for developing the device.
- there is probably another group that I can't think of right now, but it's not the intended recipients. For them, ask yourself this question: "What could possibly go wrong?"
I am willing to bet that Google showed off the $100 MIT computer at CES just to maintain the myth that they Do No Evil (cf. China for counter example).
The sad part is that I think Google is starting to lose its way. Their PR machine hypes the fact that employees are expected to spend one day a week on their own projects. (I wonder how many just take the day off work.) Yet, the short list under Labs is depressing: so few ideas, and all of them so incomplete. (Transit in Portland? Yuk, yuk.) It's starting to remind me of Microsoft Research: so many billions wasted each year on virtually nil practical output.
And what's with this obsession on developing social networking software? Like it doesn't exist yet? I'll be glad when this phase of geek infactuation passes.
Then there is the whole issue of leaching. Earlier this millenium, software companies cut their costs by hiring overseas programmer and support staff (outsourcing). Now they are further cutting their costs (= increasing profits for shareholders) by leaching off the free software community. "Hey guys, if you write code for free, we'll sell it (and keep the $$$ for ourselves)."