In my recent article, "What good are tablets in the enterprise?" I suggested that tablet adoption, especially in the enterprise, is partially dependent on a transition from local to cloud-based technologies.
At Google, I'm sure they nodded their heads furiously in agreement when I described tablets as "cloud-pods." Google thought that most consumers would opt for the sub-$200 8GB version of their Nexus 7 tablet, leveraging Google's expanded Play Store and storing information on their servers. They were so wrong about this that 16GB Nexus 7 tablets ran out of stock online and at brick-and-mortar locations. Sales of that model had to be suspended for weeks while they scrambled to meet the demand.
Google has made this mistake before.
I think most of us understand that Google's model is made to monetize web traffic. By design, Google directs people to get connected and create more internet traffic. It's equivalent to a newspaper or magazine circulation. The higher the numbers, the more advertisers will show up, and the more they'll be willing to pay.
But Google has tried at least two times before to rush the consumer market to embrace cloud-based solutions that have failed. In both cases, and in this case too, there are remarkable similarities.
The earliest attempt, the Chrome Web Store, hasn't really been a success. It's a novel concept, and it offers a lot of promise, but it just hasn't caught on. I have my theories on why, but that isn't what I want to focus on in this post.
The second and most recent attempt was the release of the Chromebook and Chrome OS. Both were underwhelmingly received. The fact that Chromebooks were aimed at delivering lightweight affordable business productivity platforms seemed a weird choice to me. There are a lot of early adopters who are very excited about the possibilities of thin cloud-based client machines, but the industry as a whole seems wary and unconvinced.
I think that Google has faltered on tablets, focusing on cloud solutions to Apple's advantage, because they really thought that Chrome, Chrome OS, and Chromebooks were going to shake things up with cloud adoption.
The Nexus 7 should illustrate to Google that they're moving too aggressively, trying to herd the market toward cloud-based solutions. These have been rejected every time that Google has tried to lock markets in. I don't think consumers or businesses consciously know why they're reluctant, but they are. Overall, there are control, accessibility, security, and dependency issues with cloud-based solutions.
People love cloud-based storage and apps like Dropbox, Gmail, and even Google Docs. Businesses love being able to outsource the headaches of mail-server management and other "non-business process" app and server support. Encouraged, Google keeps trying to close the knot and prevent users from looking back.
Ultimately, that's the problem. I think consumers realize that Google is acting like an over-eager high school student on a date, clumsily trying to close a play. People are afraid of being locked-in with a jealous and clingy Google once they don't have any other option.
I store my pictures on Facebook and Google+, but I'm not locked into any of these solutions. I also store my apps and documents locally, so I don't have to worry about Google shutting down or having hardware problems and losing my data — and I can't ever see myself willingly giving up that ability. Regardless of how many benefits Google tells me I'll gain, giving up my independence just isn't on my roadmap.
I like Google, but I'm not ready to make a long-term commitment and give up my digital independence. If Google keeps pressuring me, I just might have to start seeing other vendors. Honestly, sometimes Google creeps me out, especially when it comes to control issues.
From what I've read, a lot of IT pros agree. Don't try to lock us into a small amount of memory in the false hope that we'll store more of our stuff with you. Don't push a device that has crippled local file systems and storage. Stop trying to limit our independent capabilities in the hope that it'll make us more dependent on you. It's transparent and desperate.
Google learned a lesson with the Nexus 7. How they apply it is up to them. They can cripple future devices by not including expandable memory slots and charging more for on-board memory. That isn't anything new. Their competitor does it and is reviled for it among Android users. Or they can get back in touch and make sure that future devices include the ability for people to use the device how they want — online or off, leveraging the cloud, solely for local purposes, or a mixture of both.
Donovan Colbert has over 16 years of experience in the IT Industry. He's worked in help-desk, enterprise software support, systems administration and engineering, IT management, and is a regular contributor for TechRepublic. Currently, his professional role is as a Linux support engineer for a fast-growing Linux/FOSS consultancy group. You can follow him @dcolbert on Twitter or his personal blog, located at http://donovancolbert.blogspot.com.