I have had some interesting experiences with Google and Apple recently, and it has made me think about their imminent demise. Yes, both of them.
What brings down behemoths? Size. At some point, a company becomes so large it can no longer respond to the market. Or, in this case, individuals.
Both Google and Apple (and, let’s be fair, Microsoft) have been guilty of forcing changes down end users’ throats, Changes that have no clear benefit for anyone except the companies in the form of better surveillance and chasing each others’ new “features”.
I recently tried to get Apple’s help in rescuing a fried MacBook Pro. Their response? They will take it back to their workshop and do it themselves, for $1200. Or you can buy a new one! — How about tools so I can do it myself? No. Apple doesn’t sell tools. Don’t open it. — Here, I removed the hard drive myself. Do you have a reader, can you pull data off for me? — No. We don’t do that. You have to bring the whole thing in and we’ll do it for you. For $1200. Or you can buy a new one, see how shiny it is?
And it’s true, Apple uses such proprietary materials, it’s very hard to find even the correct screwdriver to open a MacBook (it’s available here if you need one), and it’s even harder to find an adapter to attach one of their solid state hard drives (ironically made by Samsung). But Apple isn’t in the business of selling technology you can repair, they are selling Apple mystique. You don’t take them apart, you don’t fix them, you use them until they break then you buy a new one. And they have built a huge empire on that. But very soon, that model will fall when people realize they can get the same functionality for much less from Samsung or even Amazon (sorry Microsoft, but your OS is so complicated and ugly it doesn’t compare).
How about Google? Their sin is thinking they’re smarter than everyone else. While it’s true that most people at Google are actually smarter than most everyone else, they can certainly stand to learn a few things. But wait — you can’t get in touch with them! So there is no way to let them know you have a good idea, or that their products need help, or that someone is abusing their software.
I have been in touch with Google’s paid support for a
Google Apps G Suite migration recently. It took 5 calls to get most of the way there, because the good folks who answer the phones in the Philippines and in Central America were friendly but clueless — they can only look at their screen and tell you to open another web page or download another program. They can’t actually help. They work for a call center, not for Google.
We know that the giants are all watching us and are out to buy or crush anything that looks like competition. But I suspect that they will all topple when a responsive, value-oriented alternative comes along. One that offers a configurable interface and listens to the people who use it.
Until then, we will continue to suffer products and features that these companies foist on us. In 20 years, if we’re still here, we’ll look back and say, Wow, I can’t believe how low they set the bar! These are truly the dark days of technology.