Monday, April 11, 2011

We, The Digital Stepford Wives

So, a shiny (well, matt) new Google Chrome OS CR48 PC arrived chez Jones today. The notebook as already been widely documented by endgadget and others, so I won't critique the device, but note the importance of its launch.

This is basically a PC that runs a web browser and nothing else. So, if you don't live in the cloud it's useless, and if you don't live in Google's cloud it's just as useless. It's basically as tied into Google as any Microsoft system was tied into Microsoft and all Apple products are tied into Apple. In fact, more so. Even though there's a Dropbox app, none of my docs would open in anything I could find, rendering the device totally useless - even my iPad can open a Word or Excel document.

And it also shows the fundamental difference between the Google cloud and the actual cloud - no Spotify, no Skype, no ftp, no email (apart from Gmail which I don't use).

On top of this, Google now has a formidable set of walled gardens of its own, from YouTube, through the failed Wave (which might have been more successful if it had been more open), to the ever-annoying Blogger online app that I'm using to write this (biting the hand that feeds and all that).

Let's face it, Google, with all its virtuous rhetoric, has done to the internet in the UK what Tesco has done to the high street. They are convenient, cheap and ubiquitous, so make life easy for your average 21st century citizen. But Tesco has become a vacuum cleaner, sucking money out of the local economy and replacing reasonably paid jobs in local shops with minimum wage positions on part time contracts.

But, at the end of the day, the instinct of any large company (especially public company) is towards a monopoly, and none of these behemoths can resist the temptation to be introspective and protectionistic.

The oppressive weight of Facebook and the other incumbents is beginning to lean heavily on me and I already think that the internet is a utility that may already have been lost to big business, however worthy their empty rhetoric may sound.

The Chrome PC is nothing more than a vacuum cleaner for the digital age, and we are all becoming Stepford Wives.