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Friday, November 27, 2015

Google Gets It Right: Android Moves To Laptops

Google's Android dominates the phone and tablet market worldwide, with over 80% marketshare. But Google seems to have been loathe to encourage use of the Android OS on a laptop or PC.  I've never really understood this.

Instead, Google has been pushing Chromebooks.  These are typically cheap laptops that require very undemanding hardware specs.  Chromebooks runs on Chrome OS, which is essentially the bootable Chrome browser and little else.  You cannot install much of anything on the laptop locally, which has only a tiny hard drive where not much of anything can be stored.  The idea is that everything is in the cloud and there is no need for local storage.

Despite low prices, Chromebooks have met with only limited success. There are times when people need to work offline or do other things that cannot be done on Chrome.  Therefore the laptop can be of extremely limited use.  If low cost is the issue, one is probably better off with a used ten year old Windows XP laptop than a new Chromebook.  Even an ancient Windows computer can install the Chrome Browser and access your online resources.  In addition, it has the ability to run local programs and store files locally.

Google seems to have been hedging its bets.  It has used Chromebook as a way of trying to drive users to the cloud, making the Chrome browser the gateway to all computer use.  At the same time, the Android OS for phones and tablets used the App based approach.  Most of what you wanted to do was not handled through a browser, but rather through dedicated apps designed for a specific purpose.  Many of these apps would work offline, so a user had some functionality even when away from an Internet connection.

The market seems to have spoken clearly on this one.  Chromebook sales are going to be a little over 7 million this year, while Android is on over 1 billion devices.  Android, which contains a Chrome browser by default, can do pretty much everything a Chromebook can do.  But a Chromebook is not capable of letting users run all the apps available on Android.

Rumors are that Google is looking to phase out Chromebook and adapt Android for better functionality on devices with a larger screen and keyboard, i.e. laptops and possibly even desktop PCs.  This makes sense to me.  I guess I don't understand what Chrome OS offers that Android does not.  Sure, Android is not a full service OS like MS Windows, but neither is Chrome OS.  Both of these products are designed for people who are willing to accept less functionality from an OS but who benefit from its lower hardware demands and the ability to operate faster with less computing power behind it.

By doing away with Chrome OS and making an adapted version of Android that looks better on a larger screen and works well with a traditional keyboard, Google should be able to combine these two separate tracks into one good OS that works well on phones, tablets, and computers - something Microsoft has been trying to do unsuccessfully for years.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Microsoft is No Longer Serious About gaining Market Share in the Cloud..

All companies need to make a profit.  Some companies, however, garner a reputation for screwing customers in an attempt to squeeze a little extra money out of them.

A few months ago, I posted a comparison of Microsoft and Google's online file storage and email services entitled Microsoft is Finally Serious About Its Online Services.  Now, Microsoft has taken a huge step backwards in its attempt to attract customers into its ecosystem.  It reinforces my view that Microsoft is not a company to be trusted.

Until this change, the owner of a free OneDrive account could access online version of MS Office and could enjoy 15 GB of online storage.  Users could get another 15 GB of storage by signing up for photo storage.  Now that many people have come to rely on this service, Microsoft is pulling the rug out from under them.  If you were enjoying your 30 GB of online space, you now have to make due with a mere 5 GB.  This does not just apply to new accounts.  Your existing account will be cut back as well.

If you want to avoid this cuts, you need to pony up cash for a paid account.  Microsoft is also raising the price of its paid plans and doing away with its unlimited plan.

I cannot begin to imagine what the Microsoft execs were thinking when they pulled the rug out from under their customers other than getting a few more paying customers short term while turning off a generation of customers who were just beginning to trust the new Microsoft.  The company has a reputation for changing the rules on its customers for its financial gain.  I thought that a new CEO would change things.  But this move kills that notion.  Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
Bottom line: if Microsoft offers you a good deal on any good or service, don't really on it to continue.  It is no more reliable than a subscription that gives you an initial discount.  Maybe it is worse since an up-front discount at least informs you what the later terms will be.

After this action, users may be concerned about other attempts to squeeze more revenue out of services on which they depend.  There have been rumors that Microsoft may eventually charge a subscription for Windows updates.   Microsoft Office, which has already moved from a pay once to a pay forever subscription model may see price increases as well.  Other free Microsoft services such as Skype may also see cutbacks. Perhaps Microsoft will kill its free Office 365 cloud offerings, or start charging for its Office phone apps. These possibilities make customers wary of growing too dependent on Microsoft and encourage them to look for alternatives.

I had begun to move some of my work from Google Drive to Microsoft in the last few months.   But now I'm running back to Google and staying there.  Even if I like some aspects of Microsoft's online services better, I much prefer the stable terms that Google has maintained for years.