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January 04, 2006

Google: Planetary IT

Google as Berkshire Hathaway
What if Google never split its stock? Right now, there are analysts who see it going to 600. Today it's at 442. What does Google care if it never splits the stock? What are the chances that a stock that's up around 1000 falls to 500? Does a stock price influence buying? I think so.

I just had a thought about what Google might do. Maybe Cringely's stuff is just getting through my thick skull. What I imagine is that Google will decide to be the single huge global operating system. The more you compute, the more Google grows. Google is trying to be the best IT system on the planet. It has very strict rules about its APIs and it picks the best ones and publishes them.

Google as planetary IT reminds me of another old idea of mine. Back in 95 or so, when online banking was first getting started, I thought it would be a great idea for banks to become data trustees. This was back in the day when disk drives were all we had, and Iomega was considered the best possibility for backup. FWB had the best drives, outside of Seagate and people were just beginning to take the word 'terabyte' seriously. How it is that I ended up with my own terabyte of data is a long story, but I am increasingly taking advantage of websites like Flickr. But I'll tell you what, as soon as I can save all my MP3s and JPGs up on a Google service, you better bet I will.

That means my Google ID is becoming more and more important to me, even though I don't use Orkut any longer. Which brings me to another point. Yeah it's cool that I have a Pay Pal Card, but what about a Google ID card? To what extent does and will the public trust IT companies to manage things better than banks? If you think about it, banks have, in their own way had their authentication practices upstaged by those of internet and other providers. If you own a domain, for example, there is a much more complicated set of authentications than are required by banks. So will Google get into the identity business? It seems inevitable that they will. So what are the possibilities that certain transactions within a Google account are made as secure as those of say, Pay Pal? Ultimately, for people to trust Google and their Google identity, this must be guaranteed.

I like the idea of a private company with access to the security experts in the field being responsive to such information. Sure some people will get nervous about having 'all that information about me' cross-referenceable. We may never know if Google is hacked by the Feds for this information, but we'll trust Google first.

Google Enterprise
I wonder if and when Google might venture into large scale computing for enterprise applications. You see this is a place that very few corporations have gone. We all know they keep outsourcing their application builders and designers, a trade-off in quality for expediency and cost savings. I believe that Google has learned lessons building general purpose super-scalable applications that no IT departments have yet learned and that the biggest DB software companies like Oracle and Teradata believe only they know. That is the top of commercial computing, and I'm thinking of ways to get there. The ease with which Google is mastering application rollouts is fairly astonishing. It's something nobody else is doing. Their partnerships with Sun and AOL could mean business, and the idea of the Google Box means that all things are possible.

Posted by mbowen at January 4, 2006 04:22 PM

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Cobb, great article and visionary thoughts. Why not trust the "Googlites" with our proprietary and private information? They certainly have access to the majority of our online activities anyway!

I also respect their fortitude in maintaining their simple and clean home page strategy against incredible pressure they must receive from advertisers to turn that valuable real estate into a visually challenged minefield of Madison Ave. double speak.

Go Google.

Posted by: Steve at January 4, 2006 07:01 PM

In an internet where CNN's webpage has asinine mortgage rate ads and pop ups I too am glad that Google has kept their page clean. Its simple loading is the main reason it's set as my home page.

"This was back in the day when disk drives were all we had, and Iomega was considered the best possibility for backup." Hehe. I remember when I thought I was cool for having two 100MB Zip drives daisy-chained. There is definantly a market for home users to back up their libraries of data, and to do it all in one shot. Everyone who has ripped gigabytes of music for their iPods are not going to want to go through that again if their system crashes. I can't tell you how many Maxtor external drives I have helped install for clients just so they can backup their music directories from time to time. I'm sure the same could be said for personal photo/video albums too.

Posted by: matt at January 5, 2006 06:14 AM

At the same time, there is a growing concern that Google will, at some point, begin to look more and more like Microsoft, in terms of their business practices as well as their product offering. There was an article (I believe it was in the NYT about 2 months ago) published that outlined some fairly detailed similarities in how Google operates now and how Microsoft operated in its early years.

Point being, what if Google does the sorts of things you envision, then does an about face and makes us regret it? All it may take is one idiot CEO to turn the tide...

Posted by: Kirk at January 6, 2006 10:16 AM

I'm old enough to remember when everybody hated IBM the same way people hate Microsoft today. At the time, Microsoft, Digital and Unix (but not Mac) were seen as the competition. Those were huge differences over which there was no choice whatsoever. To share data between DEC and IBM was close to impossible, and the gap between the PC and mainframe world was huge. If you think waiting for fixes to MS is crazy, you should have lived then. You couldn't even presume to ask IBM for a fix.

The difference was that in the hate IBM days, you really didn't have a choice, whereas with Microsoft you do.

Google is a service. It is a free service and there are no mandated standards for Google. It's a completely different animal. The Google search monopoly (if you could call it that) is all added-value, which is to say, there is nothing that Google does that anybody needs. Google only grows by innovation, because nobody is really dependent on anything Google provides.

Think about it. Would your company force you to use Google and block other search engines? A service monopoly, I think, is very different from a technology monopoly. The only way Google maintains a service monopoly is by offering the best service at the lowest price, and by offering services you can't get anywhere else. Google is competing and winning by coming up with new ideas.

I can't envision a scenario in which you buy products which mandate the use of a Google service. What I do see are services by current companies that are embedded in a distrbuted software model that are threatened by Google Planetary IT.

One example of this is Google Earth. Compare that to ESRI. ESRI is the number one GIS software vendor. It practically has a monopoly on that. Building GIS is pretty sophisticated stuff - with ESRI tools you might build the GPS Navigation system for your BMW. Now how long is it going to take Google to put together an API to Google Maps or Google Earth so that you could do your own GPS Navigation on your commodity laptop or next gen dash-mountable PDA? A long time. And you already know the price.. Google Ads. But there may come a time when Google puts some engineers on Google Map integration with commodity GPS and EVDO and builds a free real time navigation system. Then instead of 1200 bucks or so for the option at the car dealer, it's free from Google or maybe ad-free for a basic subscription fee. That puts some embedded systems people out of business, and adds to the power of Google Maps API, that Google distributes for free...

The place to look then is how well Google supports and encourages third party developers with its API and how stable and robust that API is. Because if Google is going to be Planetary IT, that means it will have to have its own 'Open Source' API movement. Right now, my understanding is that all those people who are being co-opted into the Google API movement are happy campers.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2006 10:53 AM