Untill recently, i've been a little undecided on the whole "Google OS" meme that's been buzzing around for some months. A couple of recent posts though, have given me chance to rethink the concept.
If you throw away the idea of an OS like Win or Linux, and think in terms of a "layer" that sits on top of your OS, the worlds biggest Search engine is already deep within many users systems, and one of (though not the main, i suspect) the goals of such a strategy is surely a move away from purely link based algorithms.
Take a look at Robert Young's guest post on Om Maliks blog: Google, the Ultimate Deflator - He argues that Google are using the internet to make Microsoft obsolete:
Google has introduced services that clearly indicate their desire to build a comprehensive “platform,” one that challenges Microsoft’s dominance in this area head on (Gmail, Desktop Search, now GD2, and Google Talk). So what is Google’s master plan? I believe they are once again going counterintuitive, but in a manner that hits Microsoft where it hurts most. Google will make Microsoft’s entire strategic plan and mission, which revolves around the continued proliferation and dominance of the desktop PC operating system, obsolete by making Google itself the operating system. The model they are pursuing is very similar to Sun Microsystems’ (Jonathan Schwartz’s) vision of turning computing into a utility, like electricity. The only difference is that Google is already almost there.
There's a great deal more to the post, and it's well worth a read
Next, take a look at Kotkke's post on the general subject of Web OS
So this is my best guess as to how an "operating system" based on the Web (which I will refer to as "WebOS") will work. There are three main parts to the system:
- The Web browser (along with other browser-ish applications like Konfabulator) becomes the primary application interface through which the user views content, performs services, and manages data on their local machine and on the Web, often without even knowing the difference. Something like Firefox, Safari, or IE...ideally browser agnostic.
- Web applications of the sort we're all familiar with: Gmail, Flickr, and Bloglines, as well as other applications that are making the Web an ever richer environment for getting stuff done. (And ideally all Ajaxed up to provide an experience closer to that of traditional desktop apps.)
- A local Web server to handle the data delivery and content display from the local machine to the browser. This local server will likely be highly optimized for its task, but would be capable of running locally installed Web applications (e.g. a local copy of Gmail and all its associated data).
Still not convinced? Then get a load of Phil Windley on GTalk as an Identity Strategy - Like most people, i was far too myopic to realize that the rather dull release of Google Talk was anything more than just another "me too" play.
Phil makes a compelling point of what may really be behind the IM app:
Clearly, Google is positioning itself as an Internet operating system capable of displacing Microsoft as the integration point (to use a Clayton Christensen term).
To do that, Google needs an identity strategy. My guess is they've got one, although they haven't come right out and said that. GMail created unique user IDs on the Google network, which GTalk leverages. I've started calling them GIDs. The GTalk announcement extends that and strengthens it
He goes on to quote Jupiter's David Card who talks about a "presense mechanism" being provided by GTalk
What's critical about IM isn't real-time text messaging but the Buddy List as a communications/presence management hub.(Link is ancient history for geek/vision cred.) You manage your buddies and buddy groups and their relationships to you (and each other), shifting those according to what persona you're inhabiting (work, home, fun, shopping, etc.) and what communications are available to you or you want to make available to them. Then broadcast that selectively. The company that can teach consumers how to do this, and own that management tool is in a very powerful position.
He concludes by pointing out the sometimes overlooked, obvious fact that Google is a business
Its nice to think of Google as a bunch of smart people just having a good time and seeing what fun toys they can build, but that misses the fact that they're also a multi-billion dollar company that has to fulfill a lot of investor expectation or die. Doing so requires a strategy and Google's strategy is based on becoming the Internet OS and integrating commodity components (i.e. Linux, OS X, and Windows). Google can't build an integration point without an identity strategy and their identity strategy has to include synchronous messaging and presence
I think in this case, it's time to put aside the tin foil hats, those arguments are just too persuasive, and make a lot of sense (at least to me).