Some days it is almost painful to watch Google. It's successful financially, having become the expert at exchanging consumer information for "free" products and getting advertisers to pay the bill. It is actually not that dissimilar in concept to the Native Americans trading Manhattan Island to Peter Minuit for $24 in trinkets. Google gets billions and the users who create this value are paid in simple software products and services. That is actually rather smart, even though it makes the rest of us look rather stupid. (I'm feeling a lot of kinship with those ripped-off Native Americans at this moment, though they at least got the $24). I know of one woman who was given unsafe directions who is questioning the value of free right now.
Google effectively announced that it is discontinuing Windows and the cited reason is "security." This is unlikely the real cause because Windows wasn't the cause of the security problem cited. It was the use of the now-outdated IE6. Google is in the process of bringing out its own OS and would need to move to it in any case. The company could also have addressed this issue simply by requiring Windows 7 and locking down the settings to make it as or more secure than the alternatives. But Microsoft is a competitor, and using a competitor's product is a bad thing. This, coupled with the need to plow the field for its Chrome OS is vastly more likely to be the reason Google made this move. Also, given that Google is under broad investigation for stealing user information while driving around mapping the world, you would think "security" would be one of those topics it would want to stay away from at the moment. Since there are actually a lot of Apple users at Google (it still allows the MacOS), can we anticipate that it will stop using the MacOS and state the reason as "freedom"?
Dishonesty is a bad way to build a market. For a company with the concept of not doing evil at its core, it increasingly seems that Google is specifically targeting evil as a goal. Intentional dishonesty is evil, but not uncommon with large companies, particularly young ones. Let's focus on this, and why lying isn't just evil, it's stupid.
Marketing vs. Lying
It's rare in most of the companies I've worked with and for to have marketing people with a background in marketing. There seems to be a common practice to rotate engineers through marketing roles as some kind of training exercise. This isn't a bad idea, or at least it wouldn't be, if there were strong marketing skills retained in the organization that could be used to teach these engineers what marketing is, and what it isn't. It isn't institutionalized lying.
I say this because a few years ago, when I was transferred into a marketing organization myself and confronted a managing director on a piece of marketing collateral that said we were doing things we actually weren't, he effectively called marketing "lying." In his mind, marketing was the practice of telling customers whatever was necessary either to sell your own products or, in that instance, to keep them from buying from someone else's. He said (as I remember it), "This isn't lying, it's marketing!"
What he, and others like him, failed to realize is that customers aren't as stupid as folks seem to think. Eventually they figure out that you aren't telling them the truth. From then on, they don't believe anything you say and will gravitate away from your products. People don't like to buy from companies they don't trust.
Appearance of Lying
People often fail to realize that it doesn't matter whether you are actually telling the truth, but whether you appear to be. For instance, if Microsoft said it wasn't using Oracle software because it was too expensive -- even though that would likely be true given that Microsoft's cost on its own software would be cheaper and the security difficulties of having Oracle on campus would be uniquely prohibitive -- no one would believe that was the primary reason, even if true. It would appear Microsoft was lying and customers would not trust anything else that Microsoft said.
For much of the '90s, Microsoft made statements that were questionable and its lack of growth in the last decade can likely be attributed partially to that. The most famous was "scalability day," where it tried to showcase that its products could scale to mainframe levels. Ironically, the products actually did scale, but the cost of the effort exceeded the cost of the mainframes they replaced by several times. And folks didn't believe it anyway. Microsoft did critical damage to its credibility and it has taken years to recover.
Wrapping Up: The Danger of Disparaging Competitor Products
One of the policies I admired from IBM while I was working there was the one against disparaging a competitor's product. This wasn't because doing so was evil, but like negative campaigning, it generally made the company doing the disparaging look untrustworthy. IBM, at its peak, was the most trusted company in the industry, and its success was largely tied to this trust.
Of the companies I work with, EMC is the most closely focused on building and maintaining trust, and it is my current gold standard in that regard. Regardless of whether lying is evil, Google and the rest of us should be looking to build and maintain trust, not trade it cheaply for a little bit of ink and a slam at a competitor. Google has aspirations to move into the enterprise; plans like this killed Netscape. Such a move isn't easy. Learning from the mistakes of others has not proven to be Google's strength, and this announcement is yet another example of that.
Regardless of what Google says about Microsoft or Apple, the lesson to be learned here is that the successful path is to maintain the appearance of trustworthiness.