Microsoft and Google Are Getting Too Creepy

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) messed up, and in a few months they may start paying the price. When Microsoft's Xbox One fails to gain traction the way its current video-game console did -- and when the high-tech Google Glass specs falter at the retail level -- there will be no shortage of scapegoats.

Microsoft angered gamers with restrictive policies, and that sentiment's going to stick even if the restrictions did not. Google Glass probably hit the market at too high a price for the first wave of wearable computing products. Xbox One priced itself for too much more than the rival PS4 and Wii U platforms. Google Glass was overrun by early-adopter hipsters that few would want to emulate.

All of this can be remedied. Microsoft can be more generous. Both companies have the financial flexibility to slash prices aggressively. Shipping out Google Glass to a few dozen celebrity tastemakers would turn momentum back toward mainstream appeal.

However, the one thing that can't be fixed also happens to be the real reason Xbox One and Google Glass will have a wall of worry to scale when they roll out. In the end, it's really just unfortunate timing for both products.

Xbox One and Google Glass came out at the worst possible time.

Consumers are upset about being spied on. As Prism, NSA, and Edward Snowden become household words, folks are having Orwellian fears about any devices that seem to make surveillance any easier. Microsoft and Google have been snowed in -- wait for it -- by Snowden.

Check out the Xbox One's Kinect camera. It's always on, by default. The sensor is perpetually monitoring visual and audio information that it uses to make gesture and voice prompts easier to use. These are features. They can be disabled if the user turns off the sensor or pauses it, but the whole thing is just too darn creepy in theory.

Google Glass is even creepier, because it's someone else who may be recording you. Forget about the unsavory notion that someone may be watching a funny cat video or furniture porn while having a conversation with you. That person can be recording you at the bus stop from across the street or looking up Foursquare check-ins while scanning the pub.

The creepiness factor is high at the worst possible time for Microsoft and Google. They thought they were raising the bar with their products, but at a time when the public is concerned about the kind of information that both companies are already collecting, don't be surprised if the Xbox One and Google Glass debuts find protestors shooing away the adoring fans.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On June 22, 2013, at 8:45 PM, scottbomb wrote:

    I give MS credit for listening to their customers for a change. We're still waiting for them to address the problems with Windows 8 (and no, 8.1 didn't quite cut it... the user is STILL forced to use Metro).

  • Report this Comment On June 22, 2013, at 11:44 PM, DrShakilAfridi wrote:

    Snowden himself called the XBOX "NSA's new surveillance program."

    Microsoft's collusion has made me look at his Foundation with new eyes. Before I thought the company was doing great things; now I wonder if it's another CIA front. What will they do in the name of science unbeknown to the world's underprivileged populations? I have zero trust in the organization now. Does the company have any understanding of what it's sacrificed by going along with surveillance?

  • Report this Comment On June 24, 2013, at 5:54 AM, Indradanjk wrote:

    No the Kinect Camera is also a microphone and it’s always on because it’s waiting to hear you say “xbox on” so it will power up fully.

    Because that’s a cool futuristic feature.

    Not uploading TERABYTES of pointless video and audio data to a secret database.

    Yes the government may tap into Skype, if you're using it when Microsoft or Google are subpoenaed to do so. That’s sucks but it’s not just a Microsoft and Google issue. Facebook. Google. Microsoft. Yahoo. AOL. YouTube. Skype. PalTalk. Have all been named as part of the PRISM.

    Apple - iphone photos emails voice data GPS location - thats creepy too

  • Report this Comment On June 25, 2013, at 10:41 PM, tzedz wrote:

    Tbh I think people are getting way too worked up over the Kinect, and a lot of it can be blamed on sensationalist reporting.

    The facts about the Kinect camera are:

    1. by default, when the console is on the Kinect is on monitoring for gestures and voice commands.

    2. when the console is off it runs in a low power state where the ONLY thing it listens for is 'xbox on' - the camera is switched off at all times unless the console is on.

    3. All processing of gestures and voice commands are done by a dedicated chip in the Kinect module (this is why XBO costs more than PS4 - the Kinect is a very advanced piece of technology), so no video of you in your lounge room can be accessed without you knowing. The only way video can get to the console is when you have Skype or another video chat service turned on.

    4. If you are worried about people accessing your camera without your permission, this is much easier to do on a smartphone or laptop - xbox is the least of your security concerns.

    I honestly think its one of the rare futuristic pieces of technology that has been well executed, some customers will still hate it, but in a few years itll be standard, people wont even give it a second thought.

  • Report this Comment On June 26, 2013, at 3:48 AM, TechsUK wrote:

    This gamer, and many others are disappointed in the about turn. I can't say it's the vocal minority, I don't know, but there was so much to communicate regarding the new features the media and journals, even assistants in game stores were pumping misinformation and FUD. The benefits and innovations in cloud and sensors were lost in the foray.

    No offline play was daft - they should have a check-in/out license system like a lot of concurrent licensing systems already do!

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