Monday

Google's Growing Online Office



Does anyone remember how, less than a year ago, several
commentators suggested Google was compiling a series of products
that could emulate an online operating system? At the time,
Google steadfastly denied such rumors. Yesterday, Google
purchased Upstartle (http://www.upstartle.com/), the maker of
a browser-based word processor called Writely.

Writely is an online word processor that enables multiple users
to access and work on documents from any location. It can be
used as a collaborative editing device and offers users online
publishing options including the ability to convert Writely
documents into "normal-looking web pages" or blog postings.

The acquisition of Upstartle, combined with other current and
pending Google services poses a serious challenge to Microsoft's
desktop oriented products. Google is clearly building a suite of
branded, browser-based applications that contains several daily
use products designed to capture users from Microsoft Office.

Earlier today, Slashdot (http://slashdot.org/articles/06/03/10/
0522252.shtml) published a story suggesting Google is running a
closed beta test of Google Calendar, including a link to a
series of screen shots (http://www.techcrunch.com/2006/03/08/
exclusive-screenshots-google-calendar/). The project, nicknamed
CL2, will be integrated with Gmail in the future.

The stakes for both firms are high with Microsoft preparing to
release its new Internet focused operating system, Vista before
the end of 2006. Until recently, Microsoft was able to bank on
the storage space offered by personal computers. Its operating
systems run from the hard drive and most digital documents
composed by computer users are stored on those users' hard
drives. The security of the hard-drive dependent storage system
Microsoft enjoyed is about to change radically.

At its Analysts Day, held earlier this month, Google
inadvertently announced the development of Gdrive, a virtually
infinite, online data storage service. A series of slides
offering preliminary details of Gdrive were included in notes
for one of the day's PowerPoint presentations but were later
removed by Google.

"The notes were deleted from the slides we posted because they
were not intended for publication," Google spokeswoman Lynn Fox
said in an interview with vnunet.com (http://www.vnunet.com/
vnunet/news/2151524/google-drops-details-planned). While she
declined further comment, those notes also included financial
projections that stretched into next year, forcing Google to
file a statement with the SEC on March 7
(http://biz.yahoo.com/e/060307/goog8-k.html).

Shortly after the presentation, the CEO of Findory.com, Greg
Linden, posted comments about them to his Geeking with Greg
(http://glinden.blogspot.com/2006/03/in-world-with-infinite-storage.html)
blog, before Google removed them. The full text of the notes
from Google Analyst Day can be found here
(http://www.box.net/public/g1892g6s98).

In his review of the deleted notes, Greg found a few interesting
sentences. At one point in Slide 19, the text notes how Google
is inspired by the idea of "... a world with infinite storage,
bandwidth and CPU power."

Google, like its competitors, is becoming a second generation
web hosting firm. Another line from Slide 19 says Google wants
to be able to "... house all user files including Emails, web
history, pictures, bookmarks, etc and make it accessible from
anywhere (any device, any platform, etc)."

Google's capacity to store and retrieve personal information is
already being applied to the corporate world. Google's Desktop 3
includes an option that allows users who work on multiple
computers, or multi-user work-groups, to search for items stored
on the hard drives of multiple computers. Google keeps copies of
files found on computers in the file-sharing network and
transfers them from unit to unit as searches take place.

One of the more interesting lines Greg extracted from Slide 19
was the idea that files stored and shared through Gdrive would
become the "Golden copy" of those documents. Gdrive, like
Writely is designed to facilitate work-group collaboration, much
like a central file server in most IT offices does now. The copy
kept on the hard-drives of members of a working group will be a
cache of the most recent version displayed on that particular
computer, but not necessarily the most up-to-date document.

Google Labs is pushing the other major Internet and search firms
to work harder and faster. The addition of Writely to Google's
stable of membership-based products raises another series of
hurdles for Microsoft and might force them to refocus their
Vista strategies. Microsoft was hoping to challenge Google's
search dominance by integrating search within the desktop and
operating system. Google appears ready to flank them by moving
applications formerly found on the desktop into its sphere of
search-related products. 2006 is shaping up to be a most
interesting year.
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