Google: Social, Cloud and more

It seems these days the biggest players in the computer world are raging wars against each other. And this war has the potential of changing the computing world as we know it.

Google wants a share in social media platform and working very hard to create a model that will work. They’ve tried it unsuccessfully with Google Buzz, and scraped the program when it didn’t work. Its newest attempt, called Social Circles, tracks the path Gmail users take through outside networks like Twitter and LinkedIn.

At the beginning of May an e-mail went out to many journalists and bloggers saying: “Google quietly launches sweeping violation of user privacy!”  It whipped the news media into frenzy. According to the e-mail Google was using the little known feature, Social Circles, to “Scape and mine social sites from around the web … and shares that information.” It was traced back to the big PR firm Burson-Marsteller.

When influential privacy blogger Christopher Soghoian was contacted with an offer to help him draft an article about the subject, he wanted to know who is paying the firm for this job.  The PR firm would not divulge the name of its customer. To warn others, Christopher posted that e-mail exchange on his blog instead.

A few days later Facebook admitted to hiring the PR firm to spread rumors about Google’s user privacy. Well, somewhat admitted, anyway. They admitted to wanting to draw attention to that privacy issue, and it wasn’t meant to be a smear campaign. Facebook and the PR company apologized and admitted mistakes (More to come on this tomorrow).

At the world Economic Forum, held in January of this year, Google’s then CEO Eric Schmidt said that Facebook is not the real competitor to Google, but Microsoft.

Whether it had something to do with his replacement is unknown, but finally, two years after Google released its Chrome browser it is about to  launch its first operating system Chrome, threatening the dominance of Microsoft’s Windows.

Google believes that the way the current operating systems work, whether Windows or Mac, is “so 20th century”. Data is stored on the computer’s hard drive, so if it crashes or is stolen, the data disappears with it. When computers break, it is time-consuming and expensive to fix.

For businesses, the expense is even steeper. After spending money on fixing the computers, you end up with an old one with not enough space. It takes backing up and securing against viruses and Trojan horses. Many companies forbid their employees from bringing in thumb-drives for fear of outside viruses getting into the system. The business spends money on IT personal to keep the computers going smoothly. NetApplications, a services firm, says that about 50% of businesses still use Windows XP, a 10 year old operating system. They did not upgrade to Vista or Windows 7.

Google’s solution? A cloud based operating system called Chrome OS which is about to be unveil on June 15.

Everything will be on the server, not on the desktop. No need for a huge hard drive to store information, no need to back anything up. All a user will have to have is a way to connect to the server.

About 20 years ago Oracle CEO Larry Ellison predicted that a “thin client”, a user without a hard drive, would be the future of business computing. There is finally a serious attempt to do that.

The server will be accessible immediately, no waiting time for booting and updating. The business can be accessed from anywhere in the world, from any computer that runs this operating system.

But Google went a step further and changed the business model as well; for the first time Google is providing both the operating system and the computer (the hardware) in a package deal. For $28 a month ($20 only for government and schools) companies can rent a 3G “Chromebook” from Google and get support, all the programs, and exchange and upgrade the equipment. No need to buy computers or programs, no need for an IT department. “We think this can fundamentally change the way people use computing in companies.” Says Sundar Pichai, Google’s SVP for Chrome.

Google partnered with Samsung and Acer to build the hardware. Different kinds of laptops will be available in June. Thin, light, without a hard drive, for the price of a tablet ($300 – $500).



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