I've speculated in the past that nothing could keep Google from moving Android from a phone to a computer. After all a phone is just a hand-held computer, so it should come as no surprise that Google officially announced yesterday that it was getting in the computer operating system business with a new OS, initially targeted for the Netbook some time next year.
Meanwhile, TechCrunch reported yesterday that the free version of Google Apps, that's the corporate package of Google Docs, Gmail and so forth, is no longer being offered offered on the Google Apps page. If you want it, you have to pony up $50/user/year. This can't be a coincidence.
All the while, Bing is making waves (at least they are gently lapping at the shore) and Microsoft deepens its plans to take its show into the cloud. What the heck is going on here?
Google Goes for the Desktop
I've always maintained that the underlying OS on a netbook doesn't matter. All you really need is a browser and an internet connection and you're good to go. That's essentially the philosophy behind Chrome OS. The idea according the official Google Blog post announcing the new venture is to create a light-weight operating system. Get to your browser, get on the web, get out of the way. Sounds ideal for netbook use, but you do need a little more than that.
Unless the Netbook comes with a celluar connection (and who's to say it won't), you need some offline apps to function. A couple of weeks ago I was at Enterprise 2.0 in Boston where the WiFi connection was spotty (and that's being generous). At one point I lost almost all of the notes I was taking on a great presentation using (ahem) Google Docs. I was not a happy camper. After that I used Windows Notepad to take all of my notes. It wasn't as convenient, but it was reliable, even if it meant I had to email myself all of my text files from my Netbook, so I could use them at home on my main computer.
There in a nutshell is the problem with the cloud. It's not fool-proof. Sometimes it's not even available when you think it should be (and if it's not, could you save my post off-line please). Google needs to work on that.
Microsoft Goes for the Cloud
While Google goes after computers, Microsoft is taking aim for the cloud. Good for them. They see where things are going, and even if they are a little slow of foot and it took them a bit of time to adjust, they are making slow progress towards joining the rest of us online. Bing has been getting some good reviews and it seems to be biting at the market share (at least initially) of Yahoo! and maybe even Google. Only time will tell if Bing has legs, or if the cloud versions of the Microsoft Office products gain significant users, but the interesting thing is that Microsoft is trying to play in this space, while Google is attempting to poach on space traditionally controlled by Microsoft.
It's Called Competition
I have stated here more than once that Microsoft, Apple and Google (three companies I write about most often) act as a check on one another. The fact that each of them exists means no one company can control the entire shebang, and that, dear readers, is a good thing. That they continually try to poach each other's market, shouldn't be surprising, but when each one begins to completely change the way it does business, it has to give you pause. Google on the desktop? Microsoft in the cloud? These are interesting times for certain.