Center of the Universe? Meh, Bleh or Ewww?

February 7, 2009


google-cloudGoogle is taking an increasingly central role in all of my computing. [Note: Please take a look at a few of my recent posts.]  Here is the quick list:

  • All of my personal email is processed via GMail.  This includes my ISP email that I pull via GMail.  And the introduction of offline capabilities only locks me further into the Google camp.
  • 99% of my searches use Google.
  • I consume 95% of all of my RSS feeds using GReader. The other 5% is processed using Yahoo! Pipes.
  • I use Chrome over 80% of the time. I still use Firefox (for some of the extensions I love). And I still play with both Opera and Safari. But these will dwindle, not grow.
  • I’m beginning  to use Latitude for my location-based activities. I’m not sold on it yet. But Brightkite is going to have a tough time keeping me.
  • I use GTalk as one of several IM ecospheres I routinely frequent for personal communications.  This is even more important as my company will (in all likelihood) interconnect its enterprise IM solution to the public Jabber infrastructure via the GTalk servers.  Personally, I believe that XMPP will soon become the modern-day equivalent to SNMP (the protocol that unified all email systems globally).
  • I’m using iGoogle as a portal to all of these services. The current iGoogle actually has some very nice features.  It has certainly improved greatly in the last two years.  And the integration of GReader and Latitude make it far more compelling than it was a year ago.
  • I used to run this blog on Blogger (a Google asset).  But when I joined Microsoft three years ago, I had to drop Blogger.  Of course, squatters came in and took my old blog address.  So when I left Microsoft, I started to run this blog on WordPress.  Actually, I like WordPress a lot more.  When I transition to a site on my own domain, I will still be using WordPress.  But Blogger (Google) has a huge number of active blog sites.  And the fact that it is a free service will bring people to Blogger and get them hooked on Google tools and Google advertising.
  • Over the past year, Google has been a pivotal player in the Open Social movement.  And they are achieving an even great role in open/federated authentication.  With their work on OpenID, they will be one of the three top players in any federated authentication solution.

It is clear that Google has a huge postition in my universe.  And that position is growing, not shrinking.  With more and more Google assets in common use, there is a defniitve gravitational “pull” associated with these computational bodies.  Indeed, the gravitational well of Google is getting larger and larger.  For example, if I had the spare change for a new phone (and no time left on my current contract), then I think I might pick up a GPhone rather than an iPhone.

This is becoming quite reminiscent of the place Microsoft began to take in the early and mid-nineties.  Is Google becoming the next Microsoft? Gosh, I don’t want to be the millionth person to discuss that hypothesis.  But it might be worth looking at Google as the next IBM.  IBM had a lock on an entire platform (the mainframe).  Every decision that was made within the corporate data center had to factor in the current and future blueprints from IBM.  And it sure looks like Google is more and more capable of exerting this kind of influence – especially as cloud-computing evolves into a reality.

At this time, Google is a key vendor of some important client technologies.  And Google is a key player as a vendor of infrastructure services and capabilities.  Google is also a new and increasingly important player in communications. And Google is practially the only player in search-based advertising.

So what’s next for them? Is it hardware? I don’t think so.  They don’t mind specifying standards – like their handling of the GPhone.  They won’t build it – but they’ll design and direct it.  Is it software?  Well, I’d have to answer yes and no.  They will build the software and then distribute it.  But they will do this as a means of providing a platform for ad-based revenue.  And right now, Google is able to monetize all of their software and standards investment via a simple advertising tax they impose on nearly every platform.  Will they focus on services?  Hmmm. That might be interesting.  But I doubt that they have the stomach for that – especially in a market that is shrinking – not growing.

Is Google a Microsoft or an IBM?  Who really knows the answer to that question.  But should Google be watched by federal regulators?  I would have to say yes.  While I don’t think that Google is exercising monopoly power to the disadvatnage of others (either competitors or customers), I do think that they have the means to do so.  But will the current governement (as controlled by the Democratic party) have the stomach to play watchdog over a company that is known to fund many a Deomocratic pet project?  Now there is an interesting question.


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