When Google announced the Chromebook Pixel a couple of months ago, the most astonishing thing about it was that folks would be happy to pay $1,300 for a laptop that essentially runs nothing but a browser. Did you know that Google locks the bootloader down so you can’t boot another OS? It can be circumvented but there doesn’t seem to be any critical backlash about this. When Microsoft adopted UEFI, there was much justifiable worry and outrage because it potentially interfered with one’s ability to load Linux or any other OS on a standard, off-the-shelf PC. You never seem to hear any backlash towards Google for the same behavior on the Chromebooks. Comments from the Wired story linked to above:
“This is good news for hobbyists because it seems Google is willing to work with their users rather than fight against them.”
“Actually ChromeOS is based on Linux, so it makes sense that they will promote linux.”
Actively locking down a device that isn’t subsidized or offered at a steep discount is considered working with users? That Google co-opts Linux as an advertising presentation system is considered a “promotion of Linux”? The thing that confuses me about the Google faithful is that they treat Google as some benevolent non-profit that’s all hugs and sunshine because they sometimes dabble in open source. Google makes most of their money from serving you advertisements. They read your email with Gmail, they watch what you search for in the search engine, they track where you go with Google Maps, and they really want to know who your friends are with Google+. That’s fine and dandy but the folks who spout sentiments like the ones I pointed out really bought into that “Don’t Be Evil” stuff that Google never should have adopted in the first place because it’s a nebulous, ridiculous concept for a publicly held company to adopt and critics will constantly use it against you every chance they get. Still, getting a free pass on obnoxious behavior like locking down a computer’s bootloader you already paid a premium for because they sometimes kinda, sorta release things as open source is dodgy behavior at best and downright dishonest at worst. Until Google open sources their search engine and ranking algorithms (you know, the software that makes all of their money), the open source talk is just lip service.
Critics accused Steve Jobs of possessing a reality distortion field that compelled people to buy Apple’s products at any price. When he died, it moved down the road to Mountain View. Jobs was a great salesman but never convinced anyone to pay $1,300 for a browser-only laptop. In fact, if you bought a Mac then they didn’t care what OS you ran after they had your money.