Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Comment on the Mac Google Experience

{**See the first several comments for info about my edits of this post BEFORE reading**}

Google kicks ass. There's no doubt about it. Gmail's amazing, Picasa's amazing, Google Docs & Spreadsheets are pretty cool too. But as much as Google appeals to the young, techno-hip crowd of today, its programs sometimes don't work well with another big player in that same scene: Apple. As a recent Switcher, I've noticed a few things about the Google experience that aren't quite the same on Macs. There are two basic kinds of deficiencies that I've noticed. [Subsequent investigation (I am without access to my Windows machine at the moment) might reveal more.]

Some of Google's offerings, mainly webapps such as Gmail that can run in any major web browser, simply aren't [isn't] as capable in the Mac OS as they are [it is] on Windows. For example, in Gmail on a Windows machine, when you right-click on something, you get a context menu that is specific to Gmail itself, not the web browser. This provides additional functionality and, in general, a user experience more like that of a desktop app. On a Mac, on the other hand, the context menu in Gmail is the same as the context menu for any other webpage. (This is in Firefox 2.0.)

Other Google products, such as Picasa[, on the other hand,] and Google Earth Plus, are [is] not available at all for the Mac OS. Needless to say, this inhibits the use Mac users can get out of them [it]. I miss Picasa so very dearly from my days on a PC; the little advantages it has over iPhoto make a big difference. And the more I run around my neighborhood, the more I wish I could save paths in Google Earth -- a feature only available to subscribers to Google Earth Plus, a Windows-only application. Of course, I could get Parallels and a licensed copy of Windows, but DAMN that seems expensive.

I expected the Google Mac blog to keep me informed of Google's latest developments for Mac users, but it's actually a sort of personal blog for developers who happen to work in Google's Mac labs. For examples of this, look at the latest two posts: Some guy's hometown and some guy's bassoonery. It's really kind of insulting.

While brainstorming for this post, an idea hit me. Google's assault on Microsoft's user base is one of the greatest trends of recent computing. It seems like a lot of Microsoft's Live services are responses to Google's services (some of which are, admittedly, responses to Yahoo!'s services). Maybe Google has gotten so into this whole competition thing that they're focusing solely on drawing people away from Microsoft -- and Mac users don't need to be drawn! This seems pretty petty to me, though. Maybe it's that Google doesn't want to compete with things already available for the Mac. That would explain the lack of Picasa, as iPhoto's solid, but... No, that's just ridiculous.

In short, Google's an awesome company with some awesome products which are for the most part available on all major platforms, but I wish they'd fix these few shortcomings.


Dan said...

1. Google Earth Plus has been available on the Mac for several months.

2. "Some guy's hometown" was mentioned on the blog because it's the default location for Google Earth on the Mac.

Sam said...

1. I had checked my facts before writing this post, and the Google Earth Plus page indicates that it's only available for "MS Windows based PCs" (check out the fine print at the bottom). But after reading your comment, I got intrigued and pretended I wanted to upgrade through the app itself, and I eventually got to the web-based upgrade dialog, which gave every indication that it IS available for the Mac. My end of the problem is corrected with apology -- now if only Google would update their page.

2. Right, it is a cool little easter egg/tidbit after all! My point, though, was that it's not really useful information about the development of Google products for the Mac.

Sam said...

And as for the style conventions I used in this edit: strikethrough means I deleted what was originally there, and [square brackets] mean I added something.