Friday, March 10, 2006
That guy Sergey Brin, he sure breathes heavy--If you are an employee of Microsoft you generally feel aggrieved that everyone buys your product and everyone hates you. You had one thing going for you, you were impervious to it all. No one really threatened the monopoly (and monopoly it is, gang). Just sometimes, in the dark shadows of night, you got to hear a little heavy breathing. If you listened just right, you heard the wind sigh: "Google."
Rumors have circulated for years that sooner or later Google was going to take on Microsoft in its most vulnerable place, application software--mostly Office--on the Internet. Microsoft has never quite gotten used to the Internet; the company always looks surprised when someone swoops in, takes control of an Internet function and swoops out with truck loads of cash. They were caught surprised by Netscape (for all the good that did Netscape). Apple's music hegemony must drive them crazy, and Google is the king of the search engines. Now Google is challenging Microsoft again. On the web. With applications.
What means is that Google may very well be finally taking on Microsoft in a vulnerable place. This shouldn't be over-emphasized, Microsoft only makes about 6% of its profit on Office; most of its money comes from Windows. But the philosophy behind Google is that anything you can do on your computer you can do better on the Internet.
Quietly, Google has purchased a small (four employee) company called Upstartle (isn't that cute?) that sells a program called Writely. Writely is a word processor on the web. You use it through your browser. It's good for collaborative work, particulary on the road. You can even upload Word documents. Since it is on the web, it doesn't matter where you are or what kind of computer you are using. More important, if you are writing as a committee or want to share your work, it doesn't matter where the other folks are or what they are using. And, you store it on the Internet, not your computer, unless you want a copy. Keep it on line and edit it there. You can store it as a pdf file, RTF or OpenDocument. Google already has a mail system, G-mail. Another Google move, long hinted, is something called G-drive. a place to store an almost infinite amount of data. You see the picture. Your computer becomes mostly a device to connect to the Web where you can do whatever you want. The Internet becomes your server.
And, it's all free.
UPDATE--Bill Gates clearly got the message. In a memo to his executives in October, Gates warned that the action was moving to the web and they better get on board the train. He has, however, said that many times before and the huge vessel he captains doesn't turn very quickly. He may have already missed--waiting for another metaphor out there are you?--the boat.