OPINION

BP, Google and Apple: Who’s Evil Now?

Watching BP try to plug the biggest oil spill in history while staging photo ops for the media feels like watching a new definition of evil unfold — until the realization sets in that we’re likely watching the death of a company.

“Evil” has been used to describe Microsoft, and Google wrote it into its mission statement as something it wouldn’t do. Little did anyone realize that its definition of “evil” was whatever it currently wasn’t doing. Apple has started doing some things that I think solidly cross the line as well. In the shadow of BP, an exploration of evil seems appropriate this week.

I’ll close with my product of the week: a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lotus, Porsche, Aston Martin, and GT-R for the price of an iPad — and it was sooo worth it.

Evil in Action

What got me on this topic wasn’t something done by Google, which is clearly havingprivacy issues at the moment, or Steve Jobs, who is having truth issues at the moment, but BP. This post by Leroy Stick — the man behind @BPGlobalPR on Twitter — lays into BP like nothing I’ve ever seen, and he hits me where I live on a number of points.

If you look at what caused the oil spill and how both BP and the U.S. government have responded, it reads like they are spending more on PR than on actually trying to fix the problem. In reading through the material, it seems the core of the problem, and what folks should probably begin focusing on, was the apparent belief that a defective failsafe technology would mitigate the lack of adequate safety procedures.

This is like a mother driving too fast in the rain because she thinks she has antilock brakes — only no one has told her that in order to save money, her husband didn’t actually buy them. The BP spill is evil in so many ways: the cover up and lack of focus on the failsafe device; the apparent lack of oversight by the U.S. government; the reckless practices that were in place; and the lack of a workable contingency plan if the failsafe should fail (which evidently isn’t unusual).

In the rush to save money, a lot of people died. Instead of either the U.S. or BP immediately putting every resource on the problem, they have slowly ramped up and appear to be spending more time looking busy than properly fixing it. To be fair, the Obama administration has stopped drilling pending the creation of better rules — but if enforcement was lax, better rules won’t be a good long-term fix. Bankrupting BP won’t either, because that just means the U.S. taxpayer, and I am one, will end up paying the bill.

The government needs to develop a real contingency plan and the capacity to deal with problems like this (or maybe get us off oil). Evidently there are other methods that have been used successfully in the past to clean this kind of mess up that for alleged profit reasons aren’t being put into play. This just seems incredibly evil to me but what’s it have to do with Google and Apple? Other than BP using Google to Manipulate Public Opinion, that is…

Google, Apple and Evil

Google just flabbergasts me. After being a major critic, and often for good reason, of Microsoft’s past practices Google seems to be aspiring to become even more evil. Why would you scan people’s homes for personal information and figure you were going to get away with it? With all of the issues Google and, more recently, Facebook have had with privacy, why would you even come close to mining people’s home networks for information?

That not only sounds and looks evil, it is fricken evil, and the firm is already under investigation by a number of government agencies all over the world.

Google appears to have reached the height of Microsoft’s arrogance in the 90s. Does it really believe it is more powerful than governments and that it can steal information and get away with it because it’s rich enough that the laws don’t apply? Maybe it is, but given what Microsoft went through with the DoJ, does Google really think this is going to be fun for its shareholders, employees and partners?

Steve Jobs and Apple (which is also under investigation at the moment) don’t seem to get that their iPhone and iPad developers are a unique and powerful asset. OK, that’s stupid but not evil. However, it was evil toblock a political satire application until the author won a Pulitzer — and even then not do anything until pushed — and then effectively lie about what happened.

OMG, is this the same Steve Jobs who started out being anti-establishment who is acting this way? The U.S. was formed around the concept of free speech; political satire is one of the most protected forms of free speech, and Apple rejects apps like these on what is becoming a reading platform. This goes on top of Apple using what appeared to be a private police force to break into a blogger’s home near me to chase an iPhone prototype that had evidently already been returned.

Hey Steve, when local media start counting the “whoppers” in a talk, maybe it’s time for a little reality check.

What is it with these companies? They get big, powerful and successful, then suddenly they are a few beers short of a six-pack and rules don’t apply to them?

Wrapping Up: Exactly

It is funny that one of the very first things I wrote about Microsoft in the ’90s was how its arrogance was going to be its downfall, and just a few years later, I watched that same arrogance fuel successful antitrust actions in both the U.S. and Europe. I watched this happen with AT&T and IBM in real-time and read about it in the histories of Standard Oil and RCA.

It seems that when certain people get enough power, they suddenly feel they can do anything until someone — normally a government — takes that power away. Both Google and Apple are very successful; all they seem to have to do is to behave and not do evil stuff.

Maybe this whole being rich and powerful thing is self-correcting? Being rich and powerful means they increasingly misbehave until they are no longer rich and powerful? Seems a shame — actually, it seems kind of stupid.

Product of the Week: Club Sportiva Exotic Car Drive

Product of the WeekLast Wednesday, I played hooky and finally got to use my Valentine present from my wife: an exotic car drive from Club Sportiva’s San Jose location. It was on special for US$650, or about the price of an iPad, and I figured that driving a bunch of exotic cars was going to be more memorable than another gadget I probably wouldn’t use much. (Until the iPad has an outdoor viewable screen, it isn’t much use to me.) I drove a Lamborghini Gallardo, Lotus Elise, Ferrari F430, Aston Martin DB-9, Porsche Cayman, and Nissan GT-R. I’ll get to go back and drive an Audi R-8 later because some yo-yo (not me or my wife) fried the clutch.

Club Sportiva's Exotic Car Experience

Club Sportiva’s Exotic Car Experience

We took the cars up into the west hills of Silicon Valley and the ride was amazing. It actually got me thinking about why I don’t like Apple products: The Porsche reminded me of Apple, and while it was a near perfect car, it wasn’t much fun.

I fell in love with the Lotus and in lust with the GT-R which was the closest thing to a driving orgasm. The day was in the 70s and mostly clear with Windows 95 clouds, and listening to the Lamborghini exhaust in the trees (I would have killed for a tunnel) was simply amazing.

The Ferrari was intimidating, the DB-9 was as beautiful as it was horrid to drive, and I’ll dream about the GT-R for the rest of my life.

Every once in a while, it is worth it to go and do something few others will ever get the opportunity to do. Because the Club Sportiva Exotic Car Drive was one of those things, it is my product of the week.


Rob Enderle is a TechNewsWorld columnist and the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a consultancy that focuses on personal technology products and trends.

2 Comments

  • The article is hilarious. Congratulations on your new career as a humorist. I liked the one where Apple was doomed too. Dave Barry’s got nothing on you.

    There will be no Microsoft tablets shipping in appreciable numbers this year. Win Mo 7 has a choice of shipping and being laughed at, or pushing the schedule and being forgotten – in either case this is over. Call his methods evil if you want but Steve Jobs knows what he’s doing and he executes well. We don’t want more PCs. We’re ready to move to the next level. Giving Apple an entire year head start on transforming the entire computing expericence is more than a "missed cycle" – it’s an abdication of leadership, and it was long overdue. New players will now invent the appliances my kids will come to associate with technology and we will soon forget the bad old days when one company prevented progress to retain its control. Apple will be AM ong them, as will Google. Microsoft has chosen not to even participate. They didn’t just miss a cycle – they’re incapable of making this turn.

    Have you even tried the iPad? Have you held it in your hands? Have you bent it to your use? I’ve seen you in person with your Kindle, and you seem to like that even though that’s a weak device with a different sort of monopoly attached. That was not remotely interesting. I have iPads finally – and the device is AM azing, perhaps even to the point of being "magical". What it means for the future of computing has to be experienced to be believed. Engage the included Citrix client and behold the future of user interfacing. With a proper cloud-backed touch-centric desktop it’s a slam dunk. It’s not even a fair fight. This one is completely over before it started.

    I’ve tried to educate you before and failed, Rob, and you know it. Give me some respect now and try the darned thing if for no better reason than I was right and you were not.

    And come on Rob. Give us one more SCO article for old times’ sake. It’s Case Closed day. Give it all you’ve got, but don’t forget to mention the Royal Bank of Canada / BayStar connection where a Microsoft rep offered to backstop an investment in SCO because fair is fair and it’s in the public record. Link: http://news.cnet.com/Canadian-bank-backs-away-from-SCO/2100-7344_3-5208396.html

  • And what’s with wasting all that gas in a dinosaur for a day or two? You still don’t get it even when it is wasting away all over your coastline. Still drag boats etc, swamp buggies all that sh*t. No one is going to take you seriously when you just waste and waste. And the defective technology was American owned and run,the same as most of what is there in the gulf. To be really fair you and that guy from Hawaii should be having a poke a little closer to home. And leave Steve alone.

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