I Am Google's Slave

 Image Source:  Charliesaidthat

Image Source: Charliesaidthat

It is no secret. I have been a fan of Google since the early days. I claimed my gmail account when Google employees started using their ten account introductions (remember the days of scarcity?).

I do Mac and iOS also. I was in the mobile industry for 10 years, starting in 2005, so I have had many smartphones, including the early PalmOS devices, Windows Mobile, Brew, Java, Symbian, Blackberry, Android and iOS. I usually carried multiple phones, and until lately (thank you briefcase thief), I carried both iOS and Android. 

Being a hacker-at-heart, the closed nature of iOS always annoyed me, so Android was almost always my primary phone. From the beginning, I also had affinity for Google's rebel nature, causing disruption in the traditional tech universe of Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, etc. Who didn't want to support a company whose motto is "Do No Evil?" Of course, living in Mountain View added that hometown hero aura, making me always root for the home team.

I needed to switch back and forth between iOS and Android for my work, and since Apple makes it very hard to use their mail, calendar, notes, maps and browser history on non-Apple devices, I standardized on gmail, gcal, Google Maps and Chrome.

For other functionality, I preferred "best of breed" apps. I chose Evernote for notes, RunKeeper for runs and bike rides, Foursquare/Swarm for checkins, Dropbox for cloud files/photo storage and Songza for music.

Fast forward to 2017. I now use Google Keep for notes because of Google Home integration. I moved to Google Fit when I kept having problems with the RunKeeper app. Google Maps keeps track of my location history (which you have to enable), so Swarm, once my "digital breadcrumbs" source, is now keeping me only through gamification, so it may not last. Google Drive, because of my business, is now my default cloud file and photo storage (through Google Photos). Songza was bought by Google, so I now find Google Play to be my music source, with their one app giving me access to my own library, curated playlists, and artist/album streaming.

So the Google takeover is almost complete. I am now a drone in their ecosystem of free functionality, though I do pay for additional storage. They know more about me than my wife. Heck, they know more about me than I do. I have accepted that trade-off for years, but I am starting to feel uncomfortable. Not uncomfortable enough to start switching, but enough to consider my choices more carefully. But for now I like the functionality, the device support, and the user experience that comes from their integrated apps.

I believe that voice, bots, and personal assistants are going to be the new technology silos in the future. Google Assistant and Google Home, Amazon Alexa and Echo, Microsoft Cortana and Apple's Siri will all be vying for your attention and choice. Their interoperability will be very minimal, and if the Amazon Echo is a good example, third party integrations will always be inferior to native functionality. For example:

  • You can use Echo for a shopping list, but it is a list only in the Echo app. Yes, people will write IFTTT adapters and Evernote will add Alexa support, but early efforts have been very clunky.
  • You can use Google Home for streaming, but you can't stream your own music unless you pay for Play Music Premium.
  • Echo supports "find my phone," but only by downloading, registering, and using yet another app.

All of this adds pressure to use the native services. Great, yet another reason to remain Google's slave.