Friday, March 22, 2013

Karmic punishment for Google

When a company commits a major transgression, I always root for them to receive karmic punishment. By that, I mean punishment that goes beyond short-term, incremental damage related to their crime du jour. I want them to suffer, extensive, lasting damage to their brand.

I'm not talking about cases where companies are merely annoying--like raising prices more than I would wish, or discontinuing my favorite color. I am talking about egregious cases that involve a breach of faith, or abusing a monopoly position. Like when Micro$oft briefly tried to make licenses for Office non-portable.

Is this vindicitve of me? I don't think so. Companies are a bit like toddlers. They are mostly amoral, and if they don't suffer a sufficient consequence for a transgression, they will keep pushing the boundary, every time they see an opportunity to gain by doing so. If they suffer mild, limited, ordinary punishment, that won't be enough deterrent. They will conclude the upside is worth the risk.

Google has been eating away at a reservoir of user goodwill with its long string of failed/canceled projects. Perhaps some are justifiable, in that there was never much uptake (Google Wave). But Google Reader was pretty important to a large number of people. And Google owned the market, and drove out all the competition. So the fact that they are willing to abandon it with short notice makes them worthy of karmic justice they are experiencing, as one journalist or blogger after another takes advantage of the recent announcement of the Google Keep note-taking app to and the Reader cancellation and concludes "why should I make an investment? Evernote is fine".

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