Google just released an application for the G1 smartphone from HTC that helps sight-impaired people dial their phones. It turns out, of course, that the app is also popular among sighted people. I guess that proves the old saw that sometimes you can do well by doing good.
But I don’t think that was foremost in the minds of the developers who created the app — one of them happens to be sight-impaired.
There’s nothing new about big companies trying to show their softer side, and while corporate responsibility is just a buzzword to some, for many it’s something demanded by shareholders and employees. There’s nothing wrong with Microsoft trying to help bridge the digital divide, but in the back of your mind you know it’s being done partly to protect Microsoft’s potential markets in developing nations from incursions from open-source alternatives.
Google’s health care initiative could get the company a little good PR, and you could even argue that anything that brings more users is good for Google, even if it never earns a nickel directly from the product. Call Google evil if you will. But I don’t think you can call it wicked.