I am beginning to suspect that Google is rather good playing its audience. Google has a history of outright lies, and yet people buy into its hype, its lies, its ‘ideology’ without batting an eyelid. The whole ‘Google stands for open’ is an outrageous, ridiculous lie. And yet, people lap it up year after year. Consider, for example, Project Ara.
A report from Wired in May 2016, has this quote:
Camargo actually has the luxury of worrying about things like aesthetics, rather than whether it’ll turn on. “Please pay no attention to how it looks,” he tells me, flipping the blocky smartphone over in his hands, “because it’s a prototype.” It’s not a concept, not an idea, not a YouTube video. It’s a prototype. Developer kits for Ara will be shipping later this year, and a consumer version is coming in 2017.
A report by Harry McCracken in Feb. 2014, when Project Ara was just announced, explains the ‘philosophy’ behind the project:
“The question was basically, could we do for hardware what Android and other platforms have done for software?” says Paul Eremenko, the DARPA alumnus who leads the effort. “Which means lower the barrier to entry to such a degree that you could have tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of developers as opposed to just five or six big [manufacturers] that could participate in the hardware space.”
So Google claims to believe in the ‘openness’ of not just software, but also hardware. And people buy it. For the average open source believing naive engineer, this is simply a wet dream.
And then, it turns out, Ara was all vaporware after all. Any number of people had identified key, fundamental problems with the project as soon as it was announced. But people still bought into the ‘vision’ of Project Ara, and longed for a world where phone hardware is as open as phone software. (That sentence works, regardless of whether you accept Android as open or not.)
And then, in Sept. 2016, Google announced that Project Ara had been cancelled. Without shipping anything. Now, I don’t have a problem with that. It’s great if a company takes risks and invests big in some cool new idea–even if it fails. We applaud the effort.
What I do have a problem with is that whole ‘open ideology’ that Google bundles nonsensically with every ‘moon shot’ project it announces.
I fail to understand how a company goes from ‘committed to open hardware’ in May 2016, to ‘Pixel: Phone by Google,’ claiming ‘we designed everything about Pixel from industrial design to the user experience.’ In Oct. 2016.
Watch this full video of Pixel’s announcement. Notice how many times they emphasize ‘by Google.’ And how many much they focus on that aspect of everything being done and controlled by Google.
Now, as a business strategy, this is of course fine. You try to launch something and it doesn’t work, so you go back to the drawing board and come up with something else that will hopefully work better.
But as far as ideology goes, Google is lying either when launching project Ara, and they didn’t care about open one bit, or they are lying when launching Pixel.
Or you know what, maybe they are lying in both cases. That seems more likely. Google has no ideological stance, no core beliefs, and it will do absolutely anything to stay relevant in a market, or to make money.
The problem of course is that Google insists on giving an ideological hue to anything it even considers doing. And there are always buffoons out there to lap it all up.