Will Google Netscape Microsoft?

Last November, Google released its Deskbar, which allows you to search the web from your Windows toolbar without using a browser. I use it occasionally; but when I first learned about it I blogged a memo to Larry Page and Sergey Brin with what I thought was a brilliant idea, but probably one that had occured to them long before. I suggested that Google provide a free search tool that would index all your personal email and all the files on your desktop. If they did this two years before Microsoft releases Longhorn, with local and web search integrated into the OS, Google’s chances for survival would dramatically increase.

Well the NY Times reported yesterday that Google is doing exactly this with a project code-named Puffin, a project that reportedly has been in the works for about a year (several months before my memo!). Google will soon offer a free download of a local search engine tool that will index all the content on your hard drive and give you instant access to old and new files.

I bought X1, a local search engine, for $99 a couple of months ago and have recommended it to friends as a great way to search all the content on your hard drive, especially email. When Google offers its free download, I’m not sure X1 will have a prayer, unless Microsoft buys X1 and starts giving its tool away for free to compete with Google.

Long term, what is Microsoft to do to avoid being Netscaped? Microsoft gave away its web browser (and later bundled it with Windows) when Netscape

6 Comments

  1. I agree with Evans Thompson, can’t see why they should venture into the low profit high risk desktop os market.

    I belive the next natural step after Gmail, is a free “Gweb”. They have the platform for hosting it. I’m glad I’m not in the hosting business any more 🙂

  2. With Google’s purchase of Blogger, they do seem to have the foundations in terms of service offerings for GWeb.

    It does seem like increasingly Google is getting involved with the creation of content, in addition to just the indexing. While I agree that they don’t seem likely to venture into the desktop productivity application space anytime soon, I wonder how much of information creation is really in wordprocessing anymore? It seems like email and the web have taken over, and that’s the space Google seems to be playing in.

  3. Why is search the most fundamental and important thing computers do?

    Why is e-mail the second most important thing computers do?

    Why would Google have more success giving away an OS than the current vendors (I just bought a Java Desktop System from Walmart. It’s an amazing system)?

    Why would Google go into the OS business anyway? What possible reason would they have for becoming a reseller of someone else’s OS?
    Do they make *any* money by doing so?

    MS products are going against more competition now than they have in a while. No doubt about that. Linux against Windows, MySQL/Postgres against SQL Server, etcetera.

    But … I’d be willing to make a public bet that, in 10 years, Microsoft will still be almost as dominant. I’ve seen *nothing* from anyone that makes me doubt it. And, hanging out at TechED this week, I’m stunned at the enormity of what they’re doing, and how it all fits together.

    Google is a nice search engine that’s branching out into related areas. Extrapolating from that to world dominance just feels premature to me.

  4. Mr. Reality

    Google is where it’s at because of investors and most investors want a return. Although Google has somehow kept there stock price up, they don’t have a long term cash generating plan. Driving a company from text ads eventually will wear thin. Almost all of Googles great products are free, most of them are all re-branded Keylight = Google Earth ect. Anyway there was a time when Yahoo was $400 a share too, Ask Jeeves, Lycos…Remember all of those…the great thing about technology is every 3 – 5 years something new comes out to replace what’s big. Napster = iTunes, Friendster = MySpace. I predict MSN and Yahoo will over take Google in the next 2 – 3 years by combining companies and offerings better more connected services. Already Microsoft Live search produces very close results to Google and it’s still in BETA. Anyway I worked with Google before their IPO, it’s a new company now and they know if they don’t deliver financials eventually their funds will go dry. Google rocks but I don’t think it will rock forever…

  5. I agree with almost everything here. However, I have difficulty with:

    “what is to stop Google eventually from giving away a free open operating system (Linux or Lindows) and Office-like suite (OpenOffice, Star Office) to anyone that wants to buy a $200 computer from Wal-Mart?”

    I see this as going against Google the company. I’ve always thought Google’s primary mission was to create Useful Things that are very powerful and efficient yet very easy to use. Getting into the OS and Office game compromises that. Suddenly you have support issues and factors that Google doesn’t have to continue.

    I can see Google becoming a real network OS in some ways. There’s an interesting post at the Topix.net Weblog (http://blog.topix.net/archives/000016.html) concerning Google’s cost per CPU cycle and what you can begin to do with such massive computing power. Google starts to become a platform itself.

    In any event, I look forward to the future and the Google-Microsoft-Yahoo wars that will spawn new technologies and more Useful Things.

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