September 21, 2005 8:00 AM PDT

Google builds an empire to rival Microsoft

Google's one-of-a-kind computer network gives it a chance to surpass Microsoft to become the most dominant company in tech, according to the author of a recently published book on the search giant.

Google already has plenty of influence. It handles nearly half of the world's Web searches. It's hiring some of the biggest names in the industry, from the controversial Kai-Fu Lee of Microsoft to the legendary Vint Cerf, an early Internet pioneer. And it has become such the topic du jour in Silicon Valley that its search for a new corporate chef warrants significant local news coverage.

But what's next? Author Stephen Arnold has closely analyzed Google patents, engineering documents and technology and has concluded that Google has a grand ambition--to push the information age off the desktop and onto the Internet. Google, he argues, is aiming to be the network computer platform for delivering so-called "virtual" applications, or software that allows a user to perform a task on any device with an Internet connection.

"Google is this era's transformational computing platform and could be about to unseat Microsoft from its throne," Arnold writes in a summary of his book, "The Google Legacy: How Google's Internet Search is Transforming Application Software," published this month.

For all of its wild success, about 99 percent of Google's revenue still comes from advertising, mostly from Internet keyword searches. Certainly, it has built on the core business, adding everything from the Gmail free Web-based e-mail service to Google Earth, a satellite mapping service. And it has plenty of cash to spend on new technology--nearly $7 billion in cash, $4 billion alone from a secondary stock offering on Sept. 14.

The big question, of course, is what exactly CEO Eric Schmidt & Co. plan to do with that war chest.

In his book, which is available in electronic PDF form only, Arnold concludes that Google has created a supercomputer ready to deliver a host of applications to anyone with a Web browser.

"Google is setting itself up to be an application delivery system for any type of device," said Arnold, who has been a technology and financial analyst for 30 years. He has helped build the technology management practice at Booz Allen & Hamilton, served as a technology strategy officer at Ziff Communications, and worked on US West's electronic yellow pages and personalization tools used by @Home. "That is a different type of paradigm from Microsoft's" desktop-centric world, he said.

Arnold's research goes well beyond speculation that Google will buy Chinese portal Baidu.com, in which it already owns a small stake, or move further into the soon-to-explode voice over Internet Protocol market, beyond its voice chat-enabled Google Talk instant-messaging service.

"Google is setting itself up to be an application delivery system for any type of device."
--Stephen Arnold, author

The notion of a network computer isn't new. Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy has for years been saying "the network is the computer." Oracle CEO Larry Ellison formed a company around the idea. It was called the "New Internet Computer Company," and it sold Web surfing devices before shuttering two years ago.

But unlike Sun and Oracle, Google's timing could be impeccable, Arnold argues. "Sun defined it. Ellison tried to build it. But Google owns it," he said.

The secret sauce
In short, from early on, Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page resourcefully figured out how to cluster lots of cheap servers and open-source software, configured to act like individual light bulbs on a Christmas tree that can be added or replaced without making the whole tree go dark, according to Arnold.

Indeed, Google representatives proudly display the company's unique rack-mounted server system to visitors to the Mountain View, Calif., campus.

"Google's architecture can scale. Using commodity hardware, Google can deploy more capacity at a lower cost and more quickly than a competitor relying on a system built with brand-name hardware," Arnold writes in his book.

Google's move into Web services--its Desktop Search and Sidebar products, for example--has prompted Microsoft to reorganize and combine MSN with its platform products group to help the software giant fight off Google's encroachment on its turf, said Frank Gillett, an analyst at Forrester Research.

Dark fiber, wireless
The reports of Google's interest in unused fiber optic, also known as "dark fiber," seems to support Arnold's theory.

"Dark fiber will enable greater dependency on what I call virtual applications," he said. "Once those high-speed connections link the dozen or so Google data centers, they will do stuff better, enable much more than telephony, media delivery."

Joe Kraus, a founder of the Excite.com portal that merged with Internet service provider @Home before filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2001, agreed that Google executives are likely thinking big, although he acknowledged he "doesn't have the slightest clue" what they are doing.

"They've been buying dark fiber for a good five years. It allows them to have such cheap communications between all their data

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34 comments

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Google Linux
Surely, a Google Distribution of an open OS is going to be their
major move.

Ubuntu seem primed to be the first home user friendly distro. I
could see Google making a move on them in the near future,
and bundling Google Earth, Picasa, Google Talk, Google Desktop
Search, GMail and a Web Application Office Suite into it.

They could also make the distro available to x86, x64 and
PowerPC processors, meaning not only could you run it on AMD
and Intel machines, as well as Mac's, but in theory you could run
it on the Playstation 3, Nintendo Revolution and of course, XBox
360.
Posted by Peej2K (40 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not forgetting
That ever increasing space that you use on GMail could also be
used to save all of your documents for the AJAX Google Office
suite, and allow you to synchronise your personal information and
photographs onto Google's service, ala .Mac
Posted by Peej2K (40 comments )
Link Flag
Thin Client
It's likely they'll use Linux as a thin client, rather than a full-blown desktop OS. It's also likely that instead of attacking desktop PCs head on, they just outflank that market with a Google-branded smartphone running Linux.

But this would be assuming that controlling the client-side is in their plans at all. Maybe they think that the server-side is all they need ... if that's the case, then they better be planning on how to react when Microsoft starts leveraging their client-side dominance in their new MSN push.
Posted by alucinor (71 comments )
Link Flag
Thin Client
It's likely they'll use Linux as a thin client, rather than a full-blown desktop OS. It's also likely that instead of attacking desktop PCs head on, they just outflank that market with a Google-branded smartphone running Linux.

But this would be assuming that controlling the client-side is in their plans at all. Maybe they think that the server-side is all they need ... if that's the case, then they better be planning on how to react when Microsoft starts leveraging their client-side dominance in their new MSN push.
Posted by alucinor (71 comments )
Link Flag
Thin Client
It's likely they'll use Linux as a thin client, rather than a full-blown desktop OS. It's also likely that instead of attacking desktop PCs head on, they just outflank that market with a Google-branded smartphone running Linux.

But this would be assuming that controlling the client-side is in their plans at all. Maybe they think that the server-side is all they need ... if that's the case, then they better be planning on how to react when Microsoft starts leveraging their client-side dominance in their new MSN push.
Posted by alucinor (71 comments )
Link Flag
Never heard of Ubuntu
It sure as heck isn't a 'home-user-friendly' name. How about they start with a simple non-geek name that make sense and people can pronounce and spell?
Posted by nmcphers (261 comments )
Link Flag
Skynet!
Obviously this is google's plan
Posted by jm1234567890 (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Competition is good in this case
I think more competition is good in this case. Linux forced Microsoft to rethink it's startegy and Microsoft users had some benefit from it. Likewise, I think competition from Google can make Microsoft more sensitive to user needs.

Khalid
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.ozevision.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.ozevision.com</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.oneplanet.net.au" target="_newWindow">http://www.oneplanet.net.au</a>
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Competition is great
Competition is what ultimately makes a capitalist society superior to full blown socialism. Capitalism without competition becomes fascism and then we have a system as oppressive if not more than a socialist society. I hope there are more competitors to MS and Google in the years ahead including open source.
Posted by mstlyevil (39 comments )
Link Flag
Increased competition
I totally agree with the increased competition thread. I want to see more players competing to improve consumer experience. Whether it's Google, Yahoo, or AOL, I want to see more neato products and services.

As for the Google Linux thread, I am not sure that's a good idea for the same reasons others have mentioned. I have no doubt that the Google geniuses can produce a consumer-friendly Linux distro. My concern would be using those dollars in other more interesting projects.

Charles Jo
www.charlesjo.com
Posted by CharlesJo.com (34 comments )
Link Flag
Where did the Linux discussion come from..
I just looked at the article again and there is no mention of Linux doing a desktop Linux.

Imagine a world where the Desktop OS isn't important. If all your office apps where served over the web. This was kind of the vision of JAVA and it looks like Google are doing their own version of it.

Firstly the market for office applications would decline. Then thin clients of any type could be used.

Instant On.
All info available anywhere.
No Notebook required. Just hot desk to a free PC and get at all your information and documents.

This could be where Google is going, or they may decide to hold the high ground on search and Internet Services and make their money from advertising and licencing their technology.

I think moving business from Office (Word/Excel) is tougher than moving then from Windows.

All the main Operating System can look and interact like Windows if you want them to, but the interface/menu struture for the applications is always a bit unique.

Compete on Office and the rest will follow.
Posted by ahickey (177 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It came
From my summerising of the article, then making my own personal
statement.

I think Google will go for the Desktop at some point, or at least put
backing into someone who wants to desperately go for the
desktop.
Posted by Peej2K (40 comments )
Link Flag
Linux is used by Google
Google already uses only Linux on it's servers, so if it moved to a desktop application it would more than likely involve some type of linux code.
Posted by mstlyevil (39 comments )
Link Flag
The free public network computer is already here
Google's ambitions will finally reveal a a
service simular to the free for life personal
online desktop like the one provided by
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.cosmopod.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.cosmopod.com</a>
Posted by iqula (59 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Google's Empire will be great for the cross-platform Computing World!
Making seamless cross-platform compatibility a paradise in the not
so distant future. The Internet and the World Wide Wed was born
to be cross-platform and Google is our only hope to return it to its
roots.
Posted by JuggerNaut (860 comments )
Reply Link Flag
^ ignore this one ^
*NM*
Posted by JuggerNaut (860 comments )
Link Flag
Google's Empire will be great for the cross-platform Computing World!
Making seamless cross-platform compatibility a paradise in the not
so distant future. The Internet and the World Wide Web was born
to be cross-platform and Google is our only hope to return it to its
roots.
Posted by JuggerNaut (860 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Skynet? Nah...
We welcome our new search engine overlord masters!
Posted by Betty Roper (121 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Don't trust them
First is why would someone want to do this? It is not a new concept. back in the day it was a bunch of monitors and keyboards plugged into a mainframe. This is somewhat similar. What happens when connections drop? There is a lot to be said for having your own system that isn't dependant on anything, other then being plugged into an electrical outlet.

Next, there is the innate untrustworthiness of Google. They basically believe they are entitled to cache any data they want at anytime. Look at their policies, it is a sleazy out-out system, not an ethical opt-in one. GMail is a terrible system, users give them free access and they happily index it and their privacy policy is too vague. They have every single search you have done, matched with your IP, they save that crap forever. These sorts of actions put them close to Microsoft on the high-end of the sleaze meter.

Google has similar god-like attitudes, but has a can't-do-any-wrong rep from the general public. Just like microsoft used to have. All this shows is the ignorance of most computer users. They just buy into whatever the hype is today, regardless of past actions of the company.

Trusting your data to Google is as stupid as trusting it to MS.
Posted by Bill Dautrive (1179 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The point is...
The future can offer a lot of web-based services and applications which allow thin clients to be more popular compared to fully loaded devices like laptops where most of the applications are locally installed. Thus, the early release of web services, web APIs and web applications... ?

Of course, the success of these online products depend on the infrastructure and architecture of the Internet to offer 99.99999% if not 100% reliabile and dependable network connectivity. Thus, the dark fibers... ?

Then you gather a customer base to know and recognize your brand. So that when the time comes, you have a brand and cult following just like with Microsoft, Apple and Linux...

The Google empire is in the making...
Posted by Mendz (519 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Calm down Mr. Arnold
Google is not looking to take over the desktop. A greater reality is they intend to become an ISP providing WiFi access from across thier network. They are not the only player here either, AT&#38;T and Verison are doing the same thing using 802.11 technology. Cingular is trying to do it starting with a UMTS network.

I am sure Google will do very well with this venture, but if they go after the desktop I'll bet on Microsoft's $38B in cash from earnings against Google's $7B from stock sales.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Calm down Mr. Arnold
Google is not looking to take over the desktop. A greater reality is they intend to become an ISP providing WiFi access from across thier network. They are not the only player here either, AT&#38;T and Verison are doing the same thing using 802.11 technology. Cingular is trying to do it starting with a UMTS network.

I am sure Google will do very well with this venture, but if they go after the desktop I'll bet on Microsoft's $38B in cash from earnings against Google's $7B from stock sales.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What is this guy smoking?
"Unlike Google, Microsoft does not focus on performance as an end in itself. As a result,
Microsoft gets performance the way most computer users do. Microsoft buys or
upgrades machines. Microsoft does not fiddle with its operating systems and their
subfunctions to get that extra time slice or two out of the hardware." - This is a crazy statement to make about any company, let alone Microsoft.
Posted by (42 comments )
Reply Link Flag
a free web based full blown office
a free, open source web based full blown office package with strong collaboration capabilities is what is beeing developed at www.nyandu.com
WITH NO SOFTWARE INSTALATION other than the browser
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
gofo de las nieves
boludo si sos vos contestame este mail urgente
Posted by gofo de las nieves (1 comment )
Link Flag
 

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