I'm calling it an Internet Operating System because it sounds 10x better than what a recent article called Google's future plans, quoted saying it is a "Web-based thin client-type hosted environment-slash-operating system replacement." A what? There has been some buzz in the last several months relating to Google's plans for an operating system that could take on the likes of Microsoft. I reported back last year about Google hiring some of Microsoft's employee's and setting up an office right next door to Microsoft's Redmond Headquarters in Washington. It seems Microsoft is not the only one that likes temperate weather while coding operating systems.
So what is a thin client? It is roughly put software. Or as defined "a client designed to be especially small so that the bulk of the data processing occurs on the server." Imagine being able to buy a bare bones client whose main processing occurs on a local Google dataserver near you. Think of the applications, many years ago several companies envision this as well, while it never got off the ground it the idea was formed. According to what people are saying about Microsoft's new Longhorn, the OS will have a similar function in part to do many of the things a thin client can do. Distributed computing is not just for pet project like Google did in 2003 anymore. From the way I see the CPU according to Google or many others is not as important as the data that is contained on a computer. Or the storage that is takes to catalog the entire web. Who really needs to bother with speed and so on if all you need to do is check email, run business applications, and various other functions. We all don't need a Alienware machine even though some might be inclined to tell you so.
Storage and Data Processing
So whats so smart about using Google data processing and storage capabilities? Thin clients will help with NO viruses, NO hard drives, could last for 5-10 years no problem, and if you want something you could easily just subscribe for it. If not, then you don't have to pay for it. Now the smart thing about what Google is doing is that they are planning to sell data processing to the mass market. Why not? It makes sense from Google's standpoint. With more than 100,000 servers, you could do more than index the web. You could also come up with a solution to overcome the challenge of storage.
In the article I mentioned at the top, the editor Molly talks about the sticky situation of consumer storage as a rapidly growing problem. I am sorry but I disagree, I don't see how someone could justify establishing an expensive RAID array in their homes in order to compensate for a lack of storage. I know people with terabytes of data that can get by just fine with a quite a few hard drives. She does make a good point though, if people are going to the extent of establishing an expensive RAID arrays in their homes to compensate for a lack of storage. It’s only logical for a company who perfected the use of storage to come along and offer its resources for sale (eg. The Google Filesystem). Meaning simply, back up your DATA at GOOGLE. Who is backing up their data these days? Some are, others are not. I know my friends aren’t cause they call me complaining when the latest variant of a virus has obliterated their hard drive. While I believe technology is supposed to make our lives similar, I have never seen a larger group of people so confused these days about where to put their data. Especially the lower tech group of people, those that have only found out about what a blog is recently from reading the Wallstreet Journal. Which surprisingly makes up the majority. Apparently someone didn't tell them that the floppy was dead either. Google seems to be helping in bridging that gap with a potential offering of backup storage for all your important files, images, programs, etc. It sounds nice, and it would be a lot similar to hooking into the internet, backup all your files, instead of burning them to a CD or external drive. Yet, I do admit nothing beats a local copy, and I personally am not going to backup my mp3 collection at Google.
How Do They Plan To Do This?
So Molly left out quite few details in terms of how Google will possibly do this. It prompted me to write this long article as I felt it deserved an alternative take on these future potentials. So how do you set up a system that will allow the bulk of internet users to store all their data at Google, back up their hard drives, and run an OS and data processing at Google? You will need HUGE amount of bandwidth to do so, and maybe not A LOT for the average user, but with anything Google does you got to make it scalable. It seems we have caught Google in the act of already planning for this. In January I reported on Google's plan to develop a global fiber optic network. They had planned to hire someone that could facilitate this. For those that didn't catch the blurb in January, 'dark fiber' is known in the industry as fiber optic cable that's already been laid, but is not yet in use. The dark fiber they are looking to purchase is planned to connect metropolitan areas and long distances. All of which would be something you might want to do if you had planned to offer what is written above, and you need the bandwidth to go with it. This seems like very distant plans to me, but it could be sooner than we think. The puzzle pieces fit though.
Tapping Formally Distant Markets: Mexico
When I was traveling to Chicago for SES last year in December, I ended sitting next to a guy on the plane that did hispanic marketing in Texas. It wasn't Nacho from SEW although I would have enjoyed very much a discussion with him about this. He and I talked about the future of Mexico and the computing age down there, how Latin America is basically a cash economy that we really can't accurately predict. Latin American users are more sophisticated than we imagine, but price and convenience are a big factor driving adoption down there. He mentioned a guy in Mexico that wants to bring computers to the mass down there, by offering a $100 dollar computer based on Linux that anyone can buy. Imagine what a $100 Google thin client in Mexico would do? Something affordable enough for those on a limited income, but also powerful enough to change the way they use a computer and much less store information. The basis is that someone else will do it for you. Today if I brought an eMachine ($200-$300) down to a Mexican (or any) university for example that anyone could use any way they want, can you guess how long that thing would last before it was zapped by viruses, spyware, scumware, trojans, malfunctioning programs, so on and so on. It would be toast in 2 weeks. Imagine if this happened consistently every time you used a computer. Google's potential solution could change that. Every computer is your computer, you have the ability to access you data from wherever. Not have to worry about CPU or processing speed. Your experience would change the way you live.
Now I did find some forum discussion on this topic today at WMW. People seem really concerned about the issue of privacy, and merging of web and desktop. The lines between what we know as the internet and the realm of our desktop will continue to be further blurred should we relay more heavily on an internet backbone to power our computers.