My friend Sam Kornstein wrote a great blog post recently titled "A Few Thoughts to Add on Google Reader" about Google Reader getting shut down in July, which sparked a few realizations I've had recently about similar services or products. In today's world, our personal lives are becoming more and more dependent on large tech companies focused more on the bottom line than anything else. I was not a Google Reader user myself, but I am certainly dependent on many products from Google and other tech companies, most of which I don't pay anything for (Gmail being the most notable). A product I use quite frequently is my my Motorola Motactv GPS running watch. Unlike my old Garmin, all of the software to view the data is on their website. The problem is that after I purchased the watch, Google bought Motorola and support for the product has stopped. It's only a matter of time I'm sure before the website goes down and my physical (and paid for product) device suddenly stops working as intended.
A second product I've questions is a new version of the class Simcity, put out by Electronic Arts recently which amazingly sold $1 million copies almost immediately. Only problem is that the game requires one to be connected to their servers to play (and to make a huge mess, they didn't have enough servers at the launch of the game). EA claims it is to enhance the game by allowing users to compete against others, critics claim it is to prevent copyright infringements. Either way, is it fair that a game like Simcity can't be played "offline"? If I pay $60 to purchase the game, how long is EA responsible for keeping the servers up and running so that I can continue to play it? A year? 2 years? 10 years?
As more and more data and services become dependent on the cloud, it will be interesting to see how problems like this get resolved. I have no doubts that in the long run consumers will be better off, but I'm sure there will be lots of bumps on the way. In the Google Reader example, the great news is that just like I wrote in my post on Apple dropping Google Maps, I'm sure there are many startups that will jump in shortly and deliver a product far better than the rather stale Google Reader product was.