They have this huge map of the Web and are aware of how people move around in the virtual space it represents. They have the perfect place to store this map (one of the world’s largest computers that’s all but incapable of crashing). And they are clever at reading this map. Google knows what people write about, what they search for, what they shop for, they know who wants to advertise and how effective those advertisements are, and they’re about to know how we communicate with friends and loved ones. What can they do with all that? Just about anything that collection of Ph.Ds can dream up.
Tim O’Reilly has talked about various bits from the Web morphing into “the emergent Internet operating system”; the small pieces loosely joining, if you will. Google seems to be heading there already, all by themselves. By building and then joining a bunch of the small pieces by themselves, Google can take full advantage of the economies of scale and avoid the difficulties of interop.
Google isn’t worried about Yahoo! or Microsoft’s search efforts…although the media’s focus on that is probably to their advantage. Their real target is Windows. Who needs Windows when anyone can have free unlimited access to the world’s fastest computer running the smartest operating system? Mobile devices don’t need big, bloated OSes…they’ll be perfect platforms for accessing the GooOS. Using Gnome and Linux as a starting point, Google should design an OS for desktop computers that’s modified to use the GooOS and sell it right alongside Windows ($200) at CompUSA for $10/apiece (available free online of course). Google Office (Goffice?) will be built in, with all your data stored locally, backed up remotely, and available to whomever it needs to be (SubEthaEdit-style collaboration on Word/Excel/PowerPoint-esque documents is only the beginning). Email, shopping, games, music, news, personal publishing, etc.; all the stuff that people use their computers for, it’s all there.
Even though everyone’s down on Google these days, they remain the most interesting company in the world and I’m optimistic about their potential and success (while also apprehensive about the prospect of using Google for absolutely everything someday…I’ll be cursing the Google monopoly in 5 years time). If they stay on target with their plans to leverage their three core assets (which, if Gmail is any indication, they will), I predict Google will be the biggest and most important company in the world in 5-8 years.
Danny Sullivan chimes in with his thoughts on the “Google Desktop”:
Will Google’s new free e-mail system, Gmail, be just the first of many things we’ll see in a new Google Desktop? If so, Microsoft could have a lot more to worry about than just Web search.
Today, plenty of people download mail to desktop-based e-mail programs. But Google might convince some of them to take up its e-mail storage offer.
After all, even if you do have a great way to search through desktop-based e-mail, you might like the idea that all your mail is backed up, stored offsite, and easily searchable from anywhere.
Now, take things a step further. Imagine next year Google provides users with 5, 10, or more gigabytes storage space for personal files.
Got a ton of text documents, spreadsheets, and other material? Push it to us, Google would say. We’ll store it, index it, and make it easy to retrieve what you want. Google already indexes this type of material across the Web and has done so for ages.
As broadband expands, such an idea becomes increasingly more feasible. With it, the notion that Microsoft might trump Google with desktop lock-in becomes less of an issue.
There is an interesting opportunity for Indian broadband companies – think like Google on the platform side, and combine with thin clients (akin to handsets) for users to build an end-to-end alternate computing platform the the mass market (today’s non-users) in India. There are 40 million home users waiting.