"You work on a fucking cruise ship."
- John, yesterday
"Right, except that there's no tipping. And they pay me."
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- John's buddy
I spent yesterday afternoon visiting Google's campus. Yes, I got to play with the new gPhone. More on that later.
Perhaps half of the square footage was devoted to offices. The rest was for pampering the employees. I knew I was in an alternate universe when I pulled in to a parking space and was greeted with a sign telling me the space was reserved for expectant mothers only.
Once inside the lobby, I saw the famous monitor that displays searches being run at that very moment. I doubt its authenticity, as the words "Miley" and "Twilight" never once appeared. I signed in with the receptionist, and through the looking glass I jumped.
My first stop was the cafeteria, which looks much like a food court at Microsoft, only with real food prepared by salaried chefs instead of real styrofoam mass-prepared by migrant workers. I bypassed the piles of absurdly fresh fruit, the cajun and Asian dishes, the panini bar, several kinds of salads, etc. and went straight for curried okra, pizza, a chocolate malt, and German chocolate cake. All I could eat, all free. People bring their friends and families in for meals.
If you're still hungry, on your way back to the office, you can stop by one of the many snack stations, with their unlimited supplies of brand-name cookies, crackers, candy, nuts, and breakfast cereals. Thirsty? Get a fruit smoothie from the smoothie girl. No tipping, now. She's on salary. Putting on weight? Hit the gym. There's a free personal trainer there waiting to help you plug your laptop into the treadmill's USB port. She's on salary too. If you're sore afterward, you can walk across the hall to the masseuses, or if you're shy like me, you can plop into one of the many massage chairs scattered around the hallways. I called mine "the tickler." "Yeah," my buddy said, "It does things that really shouldn't happen to you at work."
Agreed. But being able to drop off my laundry when I come into work and having it delivered to my office, cleaned and folded, before I leave? Sweet. Employees are similarly encouraged to bring their dogs in to work. No time to take Dex outside for a walk? No problem. Google provides dog-walkers. And of course, there were Wiis and pool and ping-pong tables everywhere.
For all that, the thing that pushed me over the edge was mundane. When my buddy sets up a meeting, this is how it works. The local people gather in a meeting room with gigantic flat-screens on the walls. Like people in Mountain View and Budapest, they key in my buddy's phone number. Two seconds later, everyone is talking via video conference. There's no 20 minutes of troubleshooting laptops ("Try Function-F5!")or Live Meeting ("Where did you install it from?"), no instruction cards, no calls to Help Desk, no crawling around for 90s-era cables, no 60s-era speakerphone to yell into, no pile of remotes to sift through. It just works, every time. I nearly wept.
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Okay, on to the gPhone. It's no revolutionary device, but it will nudge the smart phone industry forward in important ways. Yes, it has a higher resolution than the iPhone, and it can run multiple apps at once. That has a cost, of course. I have no idea what its battery life is like, but I'm imagining really, really atrocious.
The touch-screen is gorgeous, and there's a little trackball if for some reason you'd prefer to navigate by using technology from 1983. It has my #1 want of the iPhone: the ability to organize apps into folders. And of course, it's carrier-independent, so you can switch phone companies and keep your phone. The obvious cost of this: without a carrier underwriting its cost to consumers, the phone won't be cheap.
Mostly, though, the gPhone is astonishingly fast. The apps just slam open. Its browser opened this web page instantaneously. As in I didn't even get a chance to move my hand out of the way, and the page was already rendered. The Chrome browser on that phone is simply the fastest browser I've ever seen, on any sort of hardware. And that's huge. Nicely done, Google.