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TECH TALK: Internet Tea Leaves: Googles Intent (Part 3)

September 7th, 2005 · 1 Comment

Continuing with the response to Jason Kottkes WebOS post, Dare Obasanjo (who works at Microsoft) wrote: I disagree with some of his post; I think desktop web servers are a bad idea and also that the claims of the end of Microsoft’s operating system dominance are premature. He is also mistaken about MSN not building stuff for browsers other than IE. Of course, overestimating Microsoft’s stupidity is a common trait among web developer typesHowever the rest of his post does jibe with a lot of thinking I did while on vacation in Nigeria. I’d suggest that anyone interested in current and future trends in web application development should check it out.

Nicholas Carr differed from Jason Kottke in a couple of areas: First, [Kottke] doesn’t pay enough attention to the interests of businesses in the evolution of personal computing. Photo-sharing, music-playing, and blog-reading applications are certainly important and interesting, but most people’s computing decisions are determined as much or more by the needs of their employers as by their own personal interests and diversions. Cost, security and reliability concerns will ultimately lead companies to demand even less local data and applications than Kottke imagines. The user devices will become ever thinner, as applications, data and even the user operating system resides in central servers. Whether you’re using Word on Windows or Google Word Processing on Google Desktop, it will all be supplied over the Internet rather than from the bowels of your own PC. Second, and related, Kottke’s assumption that a lot of content needs to be replicated locally (so you can continue working when, for instance, on a plane) reflects the current gaps in connectivity. Those gaps aren’t going to be around forever. In five or ten years, we’ll have ubiquitous high-speed network connections, and at that point the need for local data, apps and web servers goes away. Your personal desktop, residing entirely on a distant server, will be easily accessible from any device wherever you go. Personal computing will have broken free of the personal computer.

Robert Young thinks that Googles plan is to use free to devalue Microsofts advantages and assets:

I believe they are once again going counterintuitive, but in a manner that hits Microsoft where it hurts most. Google will make Microsofts entire strategic plan and mission, which revolves around the continued proliferation and dominance of the desktop PC operating system, obsolete by making Google itself the operating system. The model they are pursuing is very similar to Sun Microsystems (Jonathan Schwartzs) vision of turning computing into a utility, like electricity. The only difference is that Google is already almost there.

To some extent, Google is bringing back the architecture of the mainframe to render Microsoft obsolete. In the future, all computing devices, whether it be the PC, mobile phone, TV, etc., will simply be terminals that plug-in to Googles massive server grid and application services. With the increasing price/performance of CPUs, memory, bandwidth, and storage, Googles strategic edge will be based on their advantageous cost of processing bits. And as long as users are comfortable sharing their private data and behavior with Google, all services will remain free (and supported by advertising).

Its not too difficult for me to imagine a day, very soon, when I rely on Google for almost all my computing needs and I buy hardware devices based on such criteria. Thats the day Google will have become my operating system. We all know that the internet has a deflationary effect on the assets of every industry it touches, whether it be printing & publishing, media & entertainment, telephony, etc. If what I pose above is indeed true, Google is using the internet to systematically devalue Microsofts assets. Perhaps there will be a day on Wall Street sometime in the future thatll be known as Microsofts Black Monday.

Tomorrow: Googles Intent (continued)


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