I have been a Google fan for quite a few years. And while some of their business practices give me pause, I have more trust in Google than similar data-centric companies like Facebook.
My fondness for Google has been tempered over the past couple of years by a series of unfortunate events, though. Things like:
- Google’s poor handling of my Nexus 6P issues and Google Fi
- Android’s intentionally misleading location settings
- Google’s Chrome browser sign-in confusion to better track users on different devices
- Google (and Facebook) getting caught misusing iOS enterprise certificates to track potentially everything you do on your iPhone.
- Android’s incredibly lax oversight of the Google Play store
- Google Fiber is abandoning Louisville after their experimental installation techniques failed to hold up for even a couple of years.
While data security and use is a big deal these days, one of the biggest reservations I have with Google isn’t data-related at all.
Google’s Biggest Issue (For Me, At Least)
It’s their lack of support.
This chronic problem best summarized in this excellent article by Ars Technica: Google’s constant product shutdowns are damaging its brand.
The article is worth a read if you’re using or investing in any Google product. While it applied only to be free and/or niche services that were killed (Google Reader, Picasa, MyTracks) it now seems like Google has no problem killing things that people pay money for (Chromecast Audio, Google Nexus’s, Google Play Music, Louisville’s Fiber network) or things that are core to the Google brand (Inbox, Google+, Youtube Annotations).
This unpredictability makes it very difficult to recommend investing in Google hardware or services. It’s possible that a service you come to rely on (Google Reader) disappears and leaves you scrambling to find a replacement.
If you want to see just how many things Google has killed, you can take a look at a site like KilledByGoogle.com. While it’s not uncommon for a large business to have so many ended projects, this is a long list.
What This (May) Mean
No wonder automakers are (or should be) hesitant to integrate Android Auto into their car dashboard systems. With the multiple-year cycle for developing a car, automakers don’t know if Android Auto will still be in operation when the car finally hits the dealers lots.
The same thing applies to the newly-announced Google Stadia, Google’s streaming game service that will run either on a Chromecast or in a Chrome browser. You’ll need to buy a controller (at least to play on a Chromecast), a subscription, and maybe also the games.
That may end up being a sizable investment if users aren’t confident in the service. After all, since it’s a streaming service where the games run on Google’s servers and are streamed to Chromecasts/Chrome browsers if it’s shut down by Google, it’s likely that the Stadia-specific hardware becomes more-or-less useless.
In a smaller way, this is also one sticking point to using Android.
When I had an Android phone, I used to enjoy the new features that came out whenever my phone was (eventually) updated. However, when I’ve needed to use my wife’s Android phone (an original Pixel), there are quite a few navigation changes that have happened in the couple of years that I’ve been out of the Android loop.
I applaud Google for moving things forward (or, at least, trying to) but making significant navigation changes is always a risky move. With the fragmentation of Android software and hardware along with Google’s (perceived) unreliability, this may cause more headaches than it solves.
The bottom line is, if you’ve invested heavily in Google products and services, you may want to take some time and research backups just in case Google suddenly decides to kill something you rely on.