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Microsoft and Google are getting too creepy

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) 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 unsavoury notion that someone may be watching a funny cat video 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.

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A version of this article, written by Rick Munarriz, originally appeared on

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