Politics and Technology Don’t Mix

Modern governance depends on the separation of church and state. Religious ideology must not influence public policy. It’s time for a similar concept in the world of technology. Companies need to separate corporate politics from their technical products.

The simplest example of this is a loathing shared by both Apple and Microsoft for Google. Instead of addressing the technical and business challenges presented by Google head on, the two older firms seem to prefer to pretend that the younger upstart just doesn’t exist. It’s that old ears-plugged, nah-nah-nah-nah-I-can’t-hear-you mentality.

For example, Apple and Microsoft have integrated the arguably non-competitive social media environments Twitter, Facebook and Flickr into their various technical platforms, but chosen to exclude Google Plus. You can’t share a photo directly to Google Plus (aka Picasa) from Apple’s iPhoto or the new Windows 8 Photos app, but you can to Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr. You can’t share content to Google Plus from iOS or Windows Phone, but you can to Facebook and Twitter. On all of Apple’s and Microsoft’s platforms it’s very difficult if not impossible to alter this behaviour.

Why? It’s simple: Apple and Microsoft hate Google. Like, hate hate. The many conflicts they have with this company are clouding their judgement. Their shared hatred is preventing them from thinking clearly and playing fair. In short, the political views of these corporations trump the interests of their customers. It’s too bad, because in many cases the services Google offers are superior to those offered by Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.

It comes as no surprise then that Google generally (naively?) takes the complete opposite approach. It is the anti-political company (consider the fact that Eric Schmidt just visited North Korea for a brazen example of the company’s complete lack of political sensibility). On Google’s platforms you’re free to share your stuff wherever you want (though Google Plus is the preferred destination, of course). If your sharing options aren’t available, Google’s stuff is designed to be hacked to satisfy your geek-heart’s desire.

In many other ways, though, Apple’s and Microsoft’s platforms are vastly superior to Google’s. It’s no small irony then that if those two companies could just learn to relax their politics they’d likely trounce their rival in short order. Instead, the laissez faire Google is eating their lunch by catering to customer interests, regardless of executive political conflicts.

To paraphrase Robert Browning, “Google’s in its Internet: All’s right with the world.”