(tl;dr – I call sputnik on Google, Apple, and Facebook)
At any given point in tech culture, there are favorites. Favorite places to work, favorite companies to talk and write about. A few years ago the favorites were; Yahoo, Microsoft, and Google. Long ago, I’m sure the favorites were – IBM, Remington, and Smith-Corona. At one point, I’m sure Western Union was a favorite. Today, the favorites seem to be Apple, Facebook, and Google. Unsinkable.
Apple is at an inflection point. They’ve never had so much love and I’ve never felt so ambivalent about them. I like their laptops, keyboards, monitors, and trackpads. Their software efforts (merging of iOS & Mac OS X, app stores, the monstrosity that is iTunes, Ping) and awkward social & internet efforts really concern me. As much as I love their hardware – I’ve lost faith in their software.
Similarly the zeitgeist is turning from Google.
It’s in the air – you can smell it. The Google Search Results page – once the example of how to make an excitingly useful product without any crap – is increasing fully of it. Confusing, cluttered, and filled with spam and tracking bugs. The recently launched Google+ is a hail-mary and that’s turning into a sock puppet. Their fixation on ‘real names’ and introducing a ‘+name’ rather than the established ‘@name’ is as trite and silly as Microsoft moving the close button across the screen in Windows. Or the British putting ‘u’s in words that shouldn’t have them.
I commend Google on the mass-shuttering projects not core to their advertising businesses – Google Labs, and so many others. I think they should continue that trend and reduce their core offerings to 4.
Their complex and conflicted relationships with both open-source software and personal privacy concerns me. Additionally, I currently see Google’s $0 offerings as a strong disincentive for continued innovation – for both Google and other market entrants. The the last time there was an exciting new email client was…um…when Facebook opened to the general public?
All the while, there’s great, foundational work being done by non-favorites.
Amazon’s uniquely positioned to drive the commercial web, providing common sense personal privacy, and fostering web-based innovation as reasonable prices – look at Amazon Web Services and the Amazon Kindle. There’s a platform and a channel – and I’m not sure which is which. Plus, every transaction has a price. How ever small. That non-zero price makes all the difference. And unlike Google & Facebook, Amazon’s not promoting their use of sexy, open source technologies as a recruitment tool. Amazon is the straight-forward, commercial web.
Mozilla is continually re-thinking the web browser. Their vision accommodates multiple devices, multiple experiences, a notion of privacy, both live connections and offline (Firefox Sync, Aurora, etc). This will be an increasingly strong use case. My work with Kernest has shown me how much our web experience is reliant on the browser vendors’ vision of the internet. Having consistencies across those experiences makes them all more usable – and Mozilla is innovating here.
To me, Samsung has the second best hardware in all of tech-land (Apple’s lawyers have argued Samsung has the best hardware). I’ve only two complaints about the Galaxy S 4G handset; measly 1-day long stand-by battery life, it’s tied to Google. Once Samsung relaunches a Teflon-ed version of the Galaxy Tab – they’ll have the high-end mobile hardware market.