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Google Should Not Be Making Mac and Linux Users Wait for Chrome!

Google should not be making Mac and Linux users wait for Chrome.

I know:

  • There’s a significant guerrilla-marketing campaign in action – the officially unstated competition with Microsoft for ‘world domination’. First Apple (with Safari), and now Google (with Chrome), is besting Microsoft Internet Explorer on Windows platforms. In revisiting the browser wars of the late nineties, it’s crucial for Google Chrome to go toe-to-toe with the competition. And whether we like to admit it or not, that competition is Microsoft Internet Explorer on the Microsoft Windows platform.
  • The Mac and Linux ports will come from the Open Source’ing of Chrome … and we need to wait for this … Optimistically, that’s short-term pain, long-term gain.

BUT:

  • Google is risking alienating its Mac and Linux faithful … and this is philosophically at odds with all-things Google.
  • It’s 2008, not 1998. In the past, as an acknowledged fringe community, Mac users were accustomed to the 6-18 month lag in software availability. Linux users, on the other hand, were often satiated by me-too feature/functionality made available by the Open Source community. In 2008, however, we have come to expect support to appear simultaneously on Mac, Linux and Windows platforms. For example, Open Source Mozilla releases their flagship Firefox browser (as well as their Thunderbird email application) simultaneously on Mac and Linux as well as Windows platforms. Why not Chrome?

So, what should Google do in the interim:

  • Provide progress updates on a regular basis. Google requested email addresses from those Mac and Linux users interested in Chrome … Now they need to use them!
  • Continue to engage Mac/Linux users. The Chromium Blog, Chromium-Announce, Chromium-discuss, Chromium – Google Code, etc., comprise an excellent start. Alpha and beta programs, along the lines of Mozilla’s, might also be a good idea …
  • Commence work on ‘Browser War’ commercials. Apple’s purposefully understated commercials exploit weaknesses inherent in Microsoft-based PCs to promote their Macs. Microsoft’s fired back with (The Real) Bill Gates and comedian Jerry Seinfeld to … well … confuse us??? Shift to browsers. Enter Google. Enter Mozilla. Just think how much fun we’d all have! Surely Google can afford a few million to air an ad during Super Bowl XLII! Excessive? Fine. I’ll take the YouTube viral version at a fraction of the cost then … Just do it!

For now, the Pareto (80-20) principle remains in play. And although this drives a laser-sharp focus on Microsoft Internet Explorer on the Microsoft Windows platform at the outset, Google has to shift swiftly to Mac and Linux to really close on the disruptiveness of Chrome’s competitive volley.

And I, for one, can’t wait!

Synced-Data Applications: The Bastard Child of Convergence

At the Search Engine Strategies Conference in August 2006, in an informal conversation, Google CEO Eric Schmidt stated:

What’s interesting [now] is that there is an emergent new model, and you all are here because you are part of that new model. I don’t think people have really understood how big this opportunity really is. It starts with the premise that the data services and architecture should be on servers. We call it cloud computing – they should be in a “cloud” somewhere. And that if you have the right kind of browser or the right kind of access, it doesn’t matter whether you have a PC or a Mac or a mobile phone or a BlackBerry or what have you – or new devices still to be developed – you can get access to the cloud. There are a number of companies that have benefited from that. Obviously, Google, Yahoo!, eBay, Amazon come to mind. The computation and the data and so forth are in the servers.

My interpretation of cloud computing is summarized in the following figure.


Yesterday, I introduced the concept of Synced-Data Applications (SDAs). SDAs are summarized in the following figure.


SDAs owe their existence to the convergence of the cloud and the desktop/handheld.

Synced-Data Applications: The Future of End-User Software?

I recently asked: Is desktop software is dead?

Increasingly, I am of the opinion that desktop software is well on its way to extinction.

In its place, Synced-Data Applications (SDAs) have emerged.

One of the best examples I’ve recently run across is Evernote. Native Evernote applications exist for desktops (as well as handhelds) and for the cloud (e.g., via a Web browser). Your data is replicated between the cloud (in this example, Evernote’s Webstores) and your desktop(s)/handheld(s). Synced-Data Applications.

And with Google Gears, Google Docs has also entered the SDA software paradigm.

With SDAs, it’s not just about the cloud, and it’s not just about the desktop/handheld. It’s all about the convergence that this software paradigm brings.

A revised version of the figure I shared in the previous post on this thread is included below.

Once again, it emphasizes that interest is focused on the convergence between the isolated realm of the desktop/handheld on the one hand, and the cloud (I previously referred to this as the network) on the other.

It’s much, much less about commercial versus Open Source software. And yes, I remain unaware of SDA examples that live purely in the Open Source realm …

Is Desktop Software Dead?

When was the last time you were impressed by desktop software?

Really impressed?

After seeing (in chronological order) Steve Jobs, Al Gore and Tim Bray make use of Apple Keynote, I absolutely had to give it a try. And impressed I was – and to some extent, still am. For me, this revelation happened about a year ago. I cannot recall the previous instance – i.e., the time I was truly impressed by desktop software.

Although I may be premature, I can’t help but ask: Is desktop software dead?
A few data points:
  • Wikipedia states: “There is no page titled “desktop software”.” What?! I suppose you could argue I’m hedging my bets by choosing an obscure phrase (not!), but seriously, it is remarkable that there is no Wikipedia entry for “desktop software”!
  • Microsoft, easily the leading purveyor of desktop software, is apparently in trouble. Although Gartner’s recent observations target Microsoft Windows Vista, this indirectly spells trouble for all Windows applications as they rely heavily on the platform provided by Vista.
  • There’s an innovation’s hiatus. And that’s diplomatically generous! Who really cares about the feature/functionality improvements in, e.g., Microsoft Office? When was the last time a whole new desktop software category appeared? Even in the Apple Keynote example I shared above, I was impressed by Apple’s spin on presentation software. Although Keynote required me to unlearn habits developed through years of use Microsoft PowerPoint, I was under no delusions of having entered some new genre of desktop software.
  • Thin is in! The bloatware that is modern desktop software is crumbling under its own weight. It must be nothing short of embarrassing to see this proven on a daily basis by the likes of Google Docs. Hardware vendors must be crying in their beers as well, as for years consumers have been forced to upgrade their desktops to accommodate the latest revs of their favorite desktop OS and apps. And of course, this became a negatively reinforcing cycle, as the hardware upgrades masked the inefficiencies inherent in the bloated desktop software. Thin is in! And thin, these days, doesn’t necessarily translate to a penalty in performance.
  • Desktop software is reaching out to the network. Despite efforts like Microsoft Office Online, the lacklustre results speak for themselves. It’s 2008, and Microsoft is still playing catch up with upstarts like Google. Even desktop software behemoth Adobe has shown better signs of getting it (network-wise) with recent entres such as Adobe Air. (And of course, with the arrival of Google Gears, providers of networked software are reaching out to the desktop.)

The figure below attempts to graphically represent some of the data points I’ve ranted about above.

In addition to providing a summary, the figure suggests:

  • An opportunity for networked, Open Source software. AFAIK, that upper-right quadrant is completely open. I haven’t done an exhaustive search, so any input would be appreciated.
  • A new battle ground. Going forward, the battle will be less about commercial versus Open Source software. The battle will be more about desktop versus networked software.

So: Is desktop software dead?

Feel free to chime in!

To Do for Microsoft: Create a Wikipedia entry for “desktop software”.

The Essence of Google

Another quote from Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail:

Likewise for Google, which seems both omniscient and inscrutable. It makes connections that you or I might not, because they naturally emerge from math on a scale we can’t comprehend. Google is arguably the first company to be born with the alien intelligence of the Web’s “massive-scale” statistics hardwired into its DNA. That’s why it’s so successful, and so seemingly unstoppable.

Author Paul Graham puts it like this:

The Web naturally has a certain grain, and Google is aligned with it. That’s why their success seems so effortless. They’re sailing with the wind, instead of sitting becalmed praying for a business model, like print media, or trying to tack upwind by suing their customers, like Microsoft and the record labels. Google doesn’t try to force things to happen their way. They try to figure out what’s going to happen, and arrange to be standing there when it does.

I’ve never read a more-concise distillation of the very essence of Google.

The Top Ten Reasons You’ll Want GMail on Your Blackberry

I’ve blogged a lot about the GMail client for the Blackberry over the past few weeks.

There’s been enough interest to warrant a Top Ten list – something along the lines of “The Top Ten Reasons You’ll Want GMail on Your Blackberry”.

Before I release my Top Ten, I thought I’d consult the collective wisdom of those who happen by my blog.

Please share a comment to this post, or drop me an email (ian DOT lumb AT gmail DOT com), and let me know what you think should be on this Top Ten list.

I’ll summarize and share in about a week.

With thanks in advance.

Google Office for the Blackberry: Coming Soon?

In a recent post, I blogged:

Now picture this: A J2ME client application for Google Docs & Spreadsheets.

This is interesting on a number of levels:

  • It’s feasible! Google Docs & Spreadsheets is likely written in
    some variant of Java (J2*E) already, so paring it down to J2ME is (in
    principle) possible.

Alas, Google Docs & Spreadsheets (GD&S) isn’t based on some variant of J2*E.

It’s based on JavaScript. To see this, open a document or spreadsheet in GD&S and then look at the document source (“View \ Page Source” in Firefox) and/or the DOM (“Tools DOM Inspector” in Firefox). Or, try to open a document or spreadsheet in GD&S on your Blackberry. You’ll soon find out about the dependence on JavaScript.

More precisely, GD&S is based on AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript + XML). AJAX is behind the wonderful user experience afforded by most of Google’s offerings. (There’s an outstanding explanation of how AJAX achieves this experience available from Adaptive Path president and founder J. J. Garrett .) AJAX is a multi-tier platform or framework for developing and delivering Web-centric applications. (And many refer to it in the same breath as Web Services.)

In striking contrast, the GMail client for the Blackberry is a stand-alone Java application that executes within a J2ME container under the Blackberry operating environment.

gmail_berry.png

Clearly AJAX and J2ME are completely different environments/platforms.

Thus it would seem that Google has the options summarized by a two-dimensional platform versus motivity grid.

platform_motivity.png

On the vertical axis, platform ranges from self-contained to service-oriented.

Motivity is a bona fide word that is synonymous with locomotion (the power or ability to move). I intend here to coin a slightly different meaning, a juxtaposition of mobility and connectivity. More precisely, I propose to use motivity as a semi-quantitative measure of the degree of mobility relative to the degree of connectivity. As mobility increases, connectivity decreases, and motivity therefore increases. This is illustrated by the horizontal axis of the two-dimensional grid. It is also important to note that connectivity is itself a proxy for bandwidth and latency. More precisely, high connectivity is taken to imply high bandwidth, low latency connectivity.

Thus the options in taking GD&S to the Blackberry are:

  • Port GD&S to the Blackberry operating environment (i.e., develop a native J2ME client version of GD&S) – the lower-right quadrant of the 2D-grid

or

  • Port the client-side aspects of AJAX to the Blackberry operating environment (JavaScript and the AJAX engine) and interface this in real time with the server-side components – the upper-right quadrant of the 2D-grid

There is one other possibility that originates in the lower-left quadrant. GD&S could be written as a Java application. A pared down version could be relatively easily be made available for the J2ME-based Blackberry operating environment. (This was my naive suggestion that’s been revisited in this post.) In parallel, through use of the Google Web Toolkit (GWT), the same Java version of GD&S could be converted to AJAX as “… the GWT compiler converts your Java classes to browser-compliant JavaScript and HTML.”

Thus a revised two-dimensional grid of the possibilities is shown below.

platform_motivity_gwt.png

Either way, it may be some time before Google Docs & Spreadsheets makes it to the Blackberry.