They sign up, burn to the limit, and pile up debt that can follow them around for years…
You can probably see where I am coming from. Therefore, you should be able to understand my skepticism when another big company swoops in with a story of helping poor students by potentially adding to their credit debt…
Let’s rewind for a second (or skip back to previous chapter as the kids would say – or slide the progress bar back and let it rebuffer as the even younger kids would say)…
Last year, Google announced (with mild fanfare) ChromeOS. Designed for consumer and enterprise desktops, it is a Linux-based operating system that basically only runs the Chrome web browser. The idea is to have all of your information stored in the cloud and everything you want to do running in a website or webapp. It gives you all the power of the Google Chrome browser on your PC without all the lame stuff like being able to install iTunes or Skype (your sarcasm detector should be firing off by now). They even gave away a few laptops running the OS. They looked pretty cool and, apparently, worked fairly well. Steve Ballmer shrugged at Google’s “linux distribution”.
As you can probably tell, I have a lot of questions with whether this device has a market at all. However, my point is not to argue the merits of the operating system. I simply believe is an idea ahead of its time and maybe a bit too much like a science project (as Gartenburg states in this article).
The new development that interested me was shown during this year’s GoogleIO conference. Google announced a “revolutionary” new computer business model for their soon-to-be-released OS. They would start selling laptops and accompanying ecosystem as a subscription-based package. For $20 a month, you would get a shiny new Chromebook. On the surface, it would seem like a great idea for the poor student (one of their target markets for this machine).
Now, I really want to figure out if a subscription-based model is as student friendly as Google is trying to make it out to be. Let’s role play…
So, I’m a poor student and I need a computer. Google is practically giving them away at $20 a month. There is no strict credit check (because I am a student and I don’t even know what that means yet) and I can get one in thin (my fav). I sign up.
Fast forward (or… oh nevermind) to the end of the semester. Like all students, I’m a master of personal finance. Ok, who am I kidding? I’m broke.
I now only have only a few dollars left. My options are between buying food, birth control, booze, and paying my monthly payment on my Chromebook. Let’s say (for argument’s sake) I decide one (or two) of these things are more important than my payment to Google. And let’s just say I miss the next month as well…
Now I’m in debt to another huge company. I will eventually pay it back (probably), but it will hurt my credit score in the meantime (if you don’t know what that is yet, kids, you better fucking learn).
There is also this weird and entirely new thought that we will have to consider. I can’t find anything that clarifies this yet (and please send me some information if you know), but what happens to you computer if you can’t pay? Does it become unable to connect to the internet? Does it become unable to connect to Google services (like gmail, docs, ghat, etc)? What’s to stop Google from making that happen?
Or are they just going to come and take it (a real treat for a student around exam time)?
Although I would see these as unlikely scenarios, it does bring forward some interesting questions about who controls (or owns) your computer in this kind of computer payment paradigm.
I’m not saying that this is how it will happen, but there are a lot of questions that need to be answered here. Therefore, until we know the details of this program, I’m going to stay skeptical. Students should probably do the same.
Ignoring all of this fear-mongering, I think it really comes down to this:
Do poor students really need another monthly payment?