November 05, 2004

An Incompletely-Debugged Collection of Device Drivers

Nick Bradbury hopes that Google is about to reduce Microsoft Windows to an incompletely-debugged collection of device drivers:

Nick Bradbury: Ramblings on Google and the Internet OS: The more I look at what Google is doing, the more convinced I am that we're witnessing the birth of the next Microsoft.  Seems to me that Microsoft is more interested in defending itself against new ideas than actually coming up with them, and over the next few years Google will be the company that Microsoft will most need to defend itself against.  I have to give credit to Google for using seemingly simple ideas such as the Google Toolbar to achieve their goals (using IE's ActiveX capabilities to take on Microsoft - you've got to love that).

The big problem for Google - and the big advantage for Microsoft - is that the vast majority of computer users have all of their data on their Windows-powered desktop computers.  So what does Google do?  Try to get people to move their data to the web (through Google, of course).  Google has already identified email and digital photos as two of the primary uses of desktop computers, and they've responded with Gmail and (to a much lesser degree, so far) Picasa.  Then they release the Google Desktop, which further blurs the line between the web and your desktop by enabling you to search your hard drive using the familiar, simple Google interface.  What will we see next?  GMusic?  GDocuments?  Others have speculated whether a GBrowser is in the works, although that certainly remains to be seen.  Regardless, Windows is being marginalized piece by piece, and Microsoft can't stop it.  The internet is the next OS, and Google is becoming a primary force behind it.

I have a lot of concerns about this as I look many years ahead.  Yeah, most of us like Google now, and we're glad to finally see a company really take on Microsoft.  A number of developers want Google to win simply because we look forward to playing a role in the development of an internet OS, and Google is making it happen...

Posted by DeLong at November 5, 2004 07:43 PM | TrackBack

1. see what M$ did to Netscape
2. see what they did to java virtual machines

as long as the majority of home computers rely on microsoft when the switch is turned on, microsoft will have a fair number of avenues to combat any threat they see. anyways the company makes the real dollars with Office and Exchange Server.

good point about reducing most computer use to a small number of tasks. makes you really question how many bells and whistles needed during the next upgrade.

Posted by: jeet at November 5, 2004 08:16 PM

Is anyone using Gmail?

Posted by: big al at November 5, 2004 08:19 PM

al, half my personal mail is from people using Gmail and the trend is up.

If they're working on WP, I sure hope they think of a more euphonious name than GOffice.

Posted by: Linkmeister at November 5, 2004 09:37 PM

Wishful thinking. Google's revenue stream is tiny compared to MSFT. Their stock will collapse in 4 months as all the insider shares come to market.

MSFT has beaten back: Apple, IBM, Novell, Sun, Oracle, Netscape, and AOL to name just a few. Google is the latest challenger and it will surely lose.

MSFT is far more disciplined than the upstarts at Google.

Posted by: Mr. at November 5, 2004 11:37 PM

The big story is that yes google is the next MS. They have crappy bug ridden applications with no security and convince the lame consumers that it is safe to use. Security firms have already noted problems with both Gmail and google desktop.

Posted by: rc at November 6, 2004 01:04 AM

Gmail is already superb and getting better. Each Google service simply makes me enjoy relying on such services more. As long a Google makes Microsoft competitive I will be pleased. Monopoly is pleasing only as a game, and Microsoft needs at least to be competitive.

Posted by: lise at November 6, 2004 04:15 AM

Google Desktop and Gbooks are also superb services that Microsoft would never have thought to develop. Sears thought Wal-Mart trivial. Watch out Microsoft. And, just who is still laughing at the Google initial public offering procedure? Well, there are the pleased purchasers.

Posted by: lise at November 6, 2004 04:25 AM

Mr.: You know, I can use that exact same reasoning to "prove" that I'm going to live forever.
Unfortunately, that analogy came to me recently while reading the many blog statements that "the U.S. can get through this, after all, we've survived everything else thrown at us so far."

Posted by: John Owens at November 6, 2004 04:29 AM

Is Google well-distributed enough that a minor disaster wouldn't cripple most of the world's users?

What would be the results of replacing Micro$oft's monopoly with Google's?

Posted by: Mike Huben at November 6, 2004 04:36 AM

There's no need for a GBrowser; we've already got Mozilla Firefox, which runs circles around poor, pathetic IE.

Posted by: RT at November 6, 2004 04:38 AM

Let me know when the NRA stores their mailing list on Google.

Posted by: Hestal at November 6, 2004 05:35 AM

And how many are willing to store their personal financial information on Google servers?

Firefox, the browser that you cannot do a simple drag and drop from, sorry I am back to IE.

"Wishful thinking. Google's revenue stream is tiny compared to MSFT." I agree - always follow the money. Upstart airlines thought they were doing well until they had to pay 2 bucks for jet fuel just like everybody else.

Posted by: me at November 6, 2004 05:53 AM

Lise is right!

What we need is just to have companies to compete with Microsoft. Gmail, by the way, is excellent.

Posted by: Ari at November 6, 2004 06:28 AM

me: Umm, yes I can do a simple drag and drop. Granted, I don't know if it's the default setup or part of one of the extensions I use (DeskCut maybe?). And given everything I can do in Firefox but can't do in IE, I would find drag & drop a pretty trivial loss - I've never used it from a browser anyway, though I guess it might have its uses for some.
Personally, I'm getting fed up with people coming up with lame excuses why they can't even bear to give it an honest chance. But then, I suppose, this kind of attitude on my part probably doesn't help. ;)

Posted by: John Owens at November 6, 2004 08:29 AM

Gee what was the name of that movie made by the same director as le Genou de Claire and had an actor that also starred in Z?

Useless, perhaps, but a typical question.

Posted by: CSTAR at November 6, 2004 01:02 PM

Microsoft is suffering through the innovators dilemma. No money in what Google is doing so why do it. Learning new methods doesn't show up on the bottom line until it's way too late to justify (kind of like exit polls).

I use gmail and firefox and enjoy them both.

Posted by: pt martin at November 6, 2004 03:57 PM

Small problem with this theory: Google stuff relies on reading your personal files. I know privacy advocates are not happy with gmail because they give no promises that they will delete your mail -- ever.

The idea of an internet-based OS seems somewhat interesting. Have any of you folks heard about this cool thing that allows you
to use your gmail account as a linux file system? gmailfs

I'm personally putting my money on linux. Within a year or two it will be a fine desktop OS. I'm one of the computer chairs of the college house I live in; recently a friend's Windows laptop was taken over by some sort of bug. I suggested she use linux to get rid of the requent virus BS and handed her a MandrakeLinux CD set but figured that since she was not a geek, we would spend a lot of time setting her machine up, learning basics, etc. Surprisingly, it was ridiculously easy and everything is working fine.

Posted by: Marc at November 7, 2004 01:30 AM

It was Microsoft that first had the notion of putting everything on the Internet. Remember the black interactive desktop? Even apps like Word and Excel were supposed to be stored on the Net and accessed through virtual offices -- or at least that was the theory. Maybe connections were too slow then to make it work or maybe people just prefer to keep everything on their personal piece of hardware. And, so long as hard drives keep getting bigger, they can.

Posted by: Mike at November 7, 2004 02:41 AM

The real competition is not an OS running from the Internet. It is rather the OS running from your DVD drive. Think Knoppix Live CD and others of such ilk. Quantian gives a strong taste of the things to come for the ones using or teaching quantitative methods. Strictly zero risk of OS corruption, plus you get to keep your personal data locally, on your ever-expanding-in-capacity hard drive. It is a throwback to the times of the original IBM-PC. PC-DOS was on a diskette and you could take it home with you. Those of us old enough must surely remember the feeling of freedom that machine gave us at the time. No need to mess with the lords of the mainframe any more ! As long as the generation that caught that feeling of elation lives, i.e. the ones born in 1955-60, we will never accept the dictates of the fellows from central electronic data processing, even of the rather mild internet version. As soon as the OS-on-DVD updates process is streamlined, both Microsoft and nouveau-Google are going to be taken to the cleaners. Search, on the other hand, whether Google or any successor, should be good for a few more years.

Posted by: George J. Georganas at November 7, 2004 10:40 AM

Jeet is absolutely correct.

Google is just another contender to the throne.

Look what MSFT did to Apple, stealing their interface, vaulting Win3.1 into active desktop.

Look what MSFT did to Netscape, (and a host of other WWWs), virtually reverse-engineering a pioneer and rebuilding the Net in their image.

Look what MSFT did to Sun, "borrowing" their open source Java code and recreating the language in their own, proprietary image.

There are literally 100's of less well known examples in the MSFT Wars, and literally 1000's of personal horror stories, wholesale slaughters of small companies who thought they were the next great wave, building on MSFT code de juer, only to have Sir William sweep it away on a whim.
Code geeks know exactly what I'm talking about.

Give MSFT one or two more years until it's new OS, and Google will drop from sight like a stone.
What the Borg doesn't destroy, it assimilates.

The only "thing" Google will make happen, is to separate a lot of mom-and-pop investment money from their retirement accounts.

Posted by: Percy Sledge at November 7, 2004 11:51 AM

Google is a fine company with fine prospects. I doubt I will ever choose to make them my substitute for an operating system and applications.

Microsoft has beaten many companies in the marketplace. A huge reservoir of money, monopoly power and unscrupulous business practices can defeat other companies with less money and power. However, it is not at all clear that Microsoft can beat free and open source software (FOSS) like GNU/Linux, OpenOffice, Mozilla, FireFox and the like. Microsoft cannot beat FOSS because all of the schemes that they have successfully applied to defeating other companies will not work against a system of volunteer developers who do not need to beat MSFT financially by some arbitrary deadline.

It is a different model for development that produces high quality products that meet the needs of users. It is not a model that applies to industry producing the proverbial widgets but it is a fine model for producing collaborative intellectual property like software. If any consumer thinks that Microsoft or some other commercial software is worth hundreds of dollars more than FOSS software then Microsoft has been successful with that customer. Their problem is that the rate of improvement of FOSS software is faster than that of proprietary software and more people every day are finding superior software comes for free or low cost.

Posted by: Don at November 8, 2004 06:47 AM

To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost. Gustave Flaubert (1821 - 1880)

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