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Google’s Options

May 25th, 2004 · No Comments

San Jose Mercury News summarises a lot of the recent discussion that has been happening on Google and what it needs to do to fend off Microsoft:

What if Google decided to snuggle up a lot closer? What if it embedded itself deep into your computer’s operating system? What if it acted as your gateway to a host of other services, such as e-mail, word processing and the ability to search for information anywhere, from your computer’s hard drive to the Internet?

Google hasn’t said anything publicly about its plans. But industry insiders say the Mountain View company is considering entering into that kind of intimate technological relationship with users.

Many experts expect that Microsoft will seek to suffocate Google with a built-in function that can scour the Web or search any of a user’s computer files, including e-mails and Word documents, all with a simple click of the mouse on a key word or phrase.

“It’s clear to me that search is going to become more deeply embedded in the operating system. It’s where the value is,” said Michael Robertson, chief executive of Lindows, a San Diego company that competes with Microsoft by selling a version of the Linux operating system.

Google is reportedly considering a half-step: an add-on desktop tool that will allow computer users to search their own files as well as the Web.

But some experts say that such a search capability would be inferior to one that is embedded in the operating system.

An operating system that incorporated Google technology would allow users to conduct Web or file searches from inside e-mails or documents with a single mouse click. More important, such an arrangement would allow Google to own all the search capabilities on a computer, driving traffic to its ad-supported search results.

Experts believe Google could potentially turn its network into a full-fledged “online operating system” that manages everything, effectively allowing the user to bypass Windows. Users would simply go online for all their needs.

“That seems perfectly real and plausible to me,” said Brad Templeton, a longtime technology entrepreneur and chairman of the board of directors of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “There are many technically appealing things about centralization.”

some observers are skeptical that Google could persuade users to manage their personal and business lives online.

“This has been tried before, and it doesn’t work,” said Eric Raymond, president of the Open Source Initiative. “People don’t like not having physical control of their bits and bytes. You put your data on someone else’s servers and it’s fundamentally out of your control.”

Separately, News.com provides an overview of the activity in the context of Google’s plans to launch a desktop search tool:

Google could establish a foothold–and a competitive edge–in this desktop search market by getting in early with free consumer software, supported by advertising. Also, it could broaden its advertising into a much more intimate PC environment, off the Web, where people spend at least 50 percent of their time.

Microsoft is working on updating the next version of Windows–Longhorn–to allow people to search text, files and the Web within many applications. However, that version isn’t slated for release until after 2006.

AltaVista, now owned by Yahoo, was among the first to take a stab at desktop search, but its product failed to catch on. Since then, a slew of companies have developed downloadable software applications to address the problem, including Copernic, Groxis, Enfish, 8020 and X1 Technologies. None have gathered critical mass.

Adware companies such as Claria and WhenU are trotting out new desktop applications to appeal to consumers and support their ad businesses…In a sign of growing overlap between Web search advertising and ad-supported desktop tools, Yahoo’s Overture subsidiary has struck a deal to display tiny text advertisements through Claria and WhenU.

Autonomy, Convera and Verity are all companies that are working to solve these enterprise search problems and typically offer much more robust technology than Google’s enterprise technology. Google’s system tends to focus on simplicity and works particularly well with HTML-based documents.

Paul Allen of Infobase Ventures writes: “Google is developing and giving away more valuable tools (primarily web based) than anyone in the history of the computer industry. Google doesn’t make any money from end-users. Google is subsidized by nearly 200,000 advertisers. Microsoft can’t Netscape Google, but Google can Netscape Microsoft!…With their super-efficient ad revenue model, they can continue to develop and give away all kinds of free software and internet tools in order to get eyeballs for their advertisers…I guess the question in my mind is this: what is to stop Google eventually from giving away a free open operating system (Linux or Lindows) and Office-like suite (OpenOffice, Star Office) to anyone that wants to buy a $200 computer from Wal-Mart? Their current revenue model would support this. The Innovators Dilemma invites this. Microsoft must shudder to think what Google might do to commoditize their most valuable and profitable software revenue streams.”

Tags: Search Engines

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