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Google’s Quiet Revolution

Jason Lee Miller
Staff Writer
Published: 2005-08-30

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We are witnesses to the seed planting of revolution. As the masses look for escape clauses in their SUV leases, real life distractions keep their thoughts focused elsewhere-Google's impact upon the world and its tech future is an obscure byline in the Wall Street Journal, or less, an industry news portal. Certainly the Paul Reveres of the tech world are shouting "Revolution!" and few are noticing.

Google's Quiet Revolution
Did You Say You Wanted A Google Revolution?

Editor's Note   Is all this talk of what Google is doing just hype? Has speculation run out of control or is this a viable possibility? Discuss at WebProWorld.

Four years ago, Paul Graham set himself up as a prophet with a lengthy prognostication entitled "The Other Road Ahead." Google was still in its infancy, a geek-tool barely noticed, not even close to a household word, much less a verb. But Graham was speaking of the next generation of software delivered by Application Service Providers (ASP).

That vision of the future entailed a populace without a need for traditional operating systems, without even knowledge of what operating systems are. The desktop PC would be replaced by cheaper devices to access the Web, where all your software applications and data storage would be managed.

"When we look back on the desktop software era, I think we'll marvel at the inconveniences people put up with, just as we marvel now at what early car owners put up with. For the first twenty or thirty years, you had to be a car expert to own a car. But cars were such a big win that lots of people who weren't car experts wanted to have them as well.

"Computers are in this phase now. When you own a desktop computer, you end up learning a lot more than you wanted to know about what's happening inside it."

Indeed Grandma, wishing only for the quick utility of emailing family and friends and relishing the lightning availability of family photos, only needs a keyboard, a mouse, a screen, and an Internet connection. She has no need to know about the intricacies of her OS and integrated software. She just needs it to work.

Fast forward to 2005, as Google's secrecy about everything causes every small action to reverberate more than a press release, and causes Bill Gates and Microsoft to hold "secret" meetings they've entitled "The Google Challenge."

By Google offering up for free what industry leaders have been squeezing consumer expense accounts for 20 years or more, those cornerstone tech behemoths are getting nervous. And rightly so.

Business Week's Ben Elgin and Arik Hesseldahl have outlined a line-up of major players that Google appears to be launching an offensive against. The list is a roster of blockbusters about to have their own blocks busted and includes Microsoft, Verizon, Motorola, and eBay.

"In years past, Microsoft Corp. could freeze competitors and send investors scurrying just by uttering the name of a market it fancied. Today, Google Inc. is the 800-pound octopus that is filling potential rivals with dread and envy."

Let's have a quick review of recent Google news, bulleted just to make it easier (not a timeline, however).

· Google woos Dr. Kai-Fu Lee from Microsoft, sets off non-compete lawsuit. Microsoft understandably worried Dr. Lee is just the biggest blister among a leprous body of talented engineers. Every bit of university talent worth anything is running to the Googleplex.

· Google acquires mobile social networking software company Dodgeball and mobile phone software company Android Inc.

· Google launches Froogle, an answer to eBay, to cool response. But excitement swells as the company admits to developing an online payment system similar to PayPal.

· Google launches major initiative to digitize every scrap of paper in the literary world, whole nations rise up against it, publishers freak out.

· Google offers email, instant messaging, telephony service, maps, Google Desktop, and soon, maybe horoscopes and chat services, as it makes its way to portal status.

· As Yahoo! strikes deals with Verizon and SBC to provide high-speed Internet service, Google is investing in Current Communications Group that offers broadband over power lines, sponsoring WiFi hotspots in San Francisco, and quietly buying up "dark," or unused fiber-optic cable. Rumors swirl as to the possibility of an ad-supported, nationwide wireless network.

· Google opens up $4 billion of stock to free up venture capital.

· Google changes its "10 Things" corporate philosophy, in effect officially redefining itself.

· Google cozies up with the best answer to Internet Explorer in years, Mozilla's Firefox.

· Rumor: A Google server-based operating system with Linux support?

One has to wonder how long it will be until Google answers AOL's Xdrive, offering the public vast amounts of online storage. All of this seems amazingly close to Sun Microsystem's Jonathan Schwartz' imagining of a world where computing and Internet become as readily available and commonly used as electricity.

And then, there's Om Malik with:

"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 Google's massive server grid and application services."

It appears the potential of Google goes beyond changing the lexicon, but may indeed change entire business models as the world switches on an ad-supported GoogleNet.

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About the Author:
Jason L. Miller is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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