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Monday, March 13, 2006

What is Google Up To?

The backround to this post is the announcement of Gdrive discussed here. This started me thinking. Then a flurry of articles later in the week gave me even more food for thought: like this one, and this one,and this one, and this one(in fact this whole damn thread), and this one, and this one, and especially don't miss this paragraph:

Another advantage is simplicity. For the same reason rockets tend to work while space shuttles tend to explode, future operating systems may have an advantage if they are simple rather than complicated. Just like there are far too many things to go wrong on a space shuttle, any one of which can end in tragedy, Windows has reached a similar level of complexity: It is virtually impossible to ensure that it will never crash. But if all your PC is doing is serving up a web site, then it does not need even a fraction of the power, complexity and inherent unreliability of Windows, MacOS or even Linux. With a simple operating system such as QNX or some future tiny system, your PC would not have to run as fast, as hot or as noisily as it does today. It would have a much longer battery life, be silent and could be comfortably placed on your lap without any question of its effect on your reproductive future. Best of all, you would never need to go to the store to buy software. You would not need to install software. You would not need to download updates, patches, service packs or anything else. You would not need anti-virus programs or worry about spyware. These would all be the responsibility of the application service providers.

So what do I think this is all about. Well let's step back a minute and think about former MIT medialab director Nicholas Negroponte and his One Laptop Per Child (or $100 laptop) project. Now just look what I found in a WSJ article from late last year:

"Although no contracts with governments have been signed, Mr. Negroponte says current plans call for producing five to ten million units beginning in late 2006 or early 2007, with tens of millions more a year later. Five companies -- Google Inc., Advanced Micro Devices Inc., Red Hat Inc., News Corp. and Brightstar Corp. -- have each provided $2 million to fund a nonprofit organization called One Laptop Per Child that was set up to oversee the project. Mr. Negroponte says five companies are bidding to make the laptop, although he declined to name them".

So Google, arch rival of Microsoft and AMD, arch rival of Intel, are funding Negroponte. Hmmmm.

Now lets look at another aspect of this. Google wants to sell videos. Google is also interested in books. In order to do this, Google has started digitising books:

During a briefing with international journalists at CES, Mr Schmidt and Mr Page sought to reassure concerns about Google's book digitisation project. "Google book search is about building the world's largest card catalogue," said Mr Schmidt. "We are not taking copyrighted information". Google is working with Harvard University, Stanford University, the University of Michigan, the New York Public Library and Oxford University on the digitisation project.

and guess what:

As well as concerns from groups representing publishers and authors, Google faces competition from a similar rival plan to scan books by the Open Content Alliance. The group counts Microsoft, Yahoo and the Internet Archive among its backers.

So what have we got? Well as far as I can see one day or another there is a head on head battle coming between Google and MS. The driving application here (killer app??) may well be a cheaper than cheap de-bowdlerised lapdop with only very simple and basic components. It will only need very basic components since eevrything else you need will be up in cyberspace, courtesy of Google. Principal victim of this new 'leap forward', Microsoft, who will find it hard to leverage much revenue from an excessively sophistocated Operating System which is priced out of its bracket by the extraordinarily cheap computer.

What's in it for Google? Well think contents. All that video, text, film, music etc etc which could be made available as and when you want it via a subscription based service. Maybe itunes is only scratching the surface on what could be a very deep ocean.