What does it mean to put people first? Don’t be like Google, for starters.
The ad, which will appear in major U.S. newspapers over the next couple of weeks, is not subtle (see it here). It forcefully makes a claim that Google’s changes, which are “cloaked in language like ‘transparency,’ ‘simplicity’ and ‘consistency,’” are really about connecting “the dots between everything you search, send, say or stream while using one of their services.”
Why would Google want to do that? Simple, says Microsoft in big, bold letters:
Every data point Google collects and connects to you increases how valuable you are to an advertiser.
Oh, if only there was a corporation that wasn’t so callously dismissive of its users’ privacy! Well, wouldn’t you know it, but Microsoft offers a lot of same services that Google does with such products as Hotmail, Bing, Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer.
In case you didn’t get the message, Microsoft’s corporate vice president Frank X. Shaw elaborated on a blog post:
The changes Google announced make it harder, not easier, for people to stay in control of their own information. We take a different approach – we work to keep you safe and secure online, to give you control over your data, and to offer you the choice of saving your information on your hard drive, in the cloud, or on both.
So the gauntlet has been thrown. Do Microsoft’s claims have any validity or weight to them?
In some ways it’s comparing apples and oranges. Google’s products are free; many of Microsoft’s are not. Would Microsoft be so concerned about your privacy if it had to turn a profit on a free version of Microsoft Word?
Also, while a more streamlined experience wasn’t Google’s only reason for the change, Google does, in fact, offer a much more streamlined experience than Microsoft does. The ease with which I can share a Google Doc with any one of my Gmail contacts is something that Microsoft can’t compete with.
It may be true your privacy is in better hands if you use Hotmail or search with Bing. But Gmail and Google Search are better products and, after everyone is done caterwauling about the new changes, that’s all that will really matter to most people in the end.