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The Digital Skeptic: Google Plays Apple Dress-Up

Stocks in this article: GOOGAAPLMOT

But somehow, Google's passion for openness comes to an Apple-like halt with the Chromebook. This thing is as closed and tightly managed as anything Apple has ever produced.

First off, the branding for the Chromebook comes right out of Cupertino. Wanna buy one? Head to the Chromebook website, start shopping. But wait ... where are we? This page is eerily like the MacBook website. White layouts, Apple-like font. And nearly identical brand positioning.

Quick, tell me, did Google or Apple make the following product claims? "Hassles not included." "Find files fast." Or my favorite, "Security built in." (For the record it's Google, Apple, Google.)

And the Apple-like, do-it-our way vibe runs right through the heart of the Chromebook. If you are a Google Apps shop like mine and you are connected to the Web, this thing boots right up into your company Google Identity. Love it.

But you are not free to make your own choices. You work as Google wants you to, meaning you better be online. With sketchy or no connectivity, which is the case when I'm traveling in Maine, the offline functionality is terribly limited.

Next, Chrome is a great browser. But it's basically the only browser, which means if you have an issue with Chrome -- for example a plug-in goes bad, or some sort of error occurs -- there is an eerie, Apple-like locked-down feel to solving Chrome's problems.

Makes the Mac Look Open
That smacks investors right into some grim big-think. No question, Google is involved with a perfectly reasonable PC. The Chromebook is well-priced, feature-packed and certainly works for business use. But it represents such a fundamental departure for Google that investors would be crazy not to seriously recalibrate how they view this business.

Is the giant, decentralized Google -- which clearly struggles to stay on message -- trying to be the world-conquering software giant that makes all data useful, such as with Google Earth? Or is it an elite hardware maker looking to move units such as the Google Chromebook?

Corporate contradictions such as these are not what investors want to see. We are like parents. Beyond that cute dress-up phase, nothing disappoints or angers us more than watching somebody try to be somebody they are not.

This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.
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