A speculative article by the LA Times suggested that Google will “will unveil its own low-price personal computer” as soon as Friday and has been in “negotiations with Wal-Mart Stores Inc.”. First this article was picked up by Slashdot and then The Register and I believe has been blown completely out of proportion.
The original Los Angeles Times article was one of those speculative lists of what will happen in 2006 by “analysts”. The Google PC prediction sat alongside Microsoft buying Ask Jeeves, Expedia, and Ticketmaster and Steve Jobs becoming a Disney Chairman – yet the Register reports it almost as fact.
Ignoring the dubious sources for a moment here, I just don’t think Google would do this. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love it if Google branded a distribution of GNU/Linux (it would almost certainly be Linux derivative) and sold cheap PCs without the Microsoft tax, finally distributing their changes to Open Source software instead of keeping them to themselves to provide services. Google is a company full of suprises – but I don’t think it’s their style. Why bother? Their services are cross platform and independent of the OS, their main environment is the web browser. Google’s main strengths are in their clustered supercomputer as a general platform for software as a service, they have no need to provide desktop PCs to access their services because they’re already out there.
I believe Google are more interested in rendering the traditional Desktop paradigm obsolete than making their own desktop OS. If they released hardware for the home it is more likely to be a derivative of their business search appliance for multimedia or very cheap little boxes in a cluster or mesh which glue the digital home together and I doubt very much they’d call it a PC, it would be something completely different to the Personal Computers we know today.
Just for reference, I don’t believe in the whole idea of them making a web-based OpenOffice either, it’s simply too bloated. If Google were to create an office suite it would be minimalist, lightweight and completely different to its desktop counterparts with focus on ubiquitous access, collaboration and open standards.
There’s scope for Google to want to put hardware in people’s homes in the future, the main crux of the software as a service model taking over from desktop applications is that you simply can’t buy latency, and for some applications where the speed of light (fibre) just isn’t fast enough, this is going to cause problems. Putting Google hardware in peoples houses creates a great deal of new opportunities. Just not now, and not like this.
I can see where people are coming from. Google has ties with Sun and OpenOffice, they’ve released a range of desktop applications recently, they’re making aggressive moves towards Microsoft and have put desktop PCs in a London airport for usability testing. Due to 20% time projects by staff and a certain amount of freedom for the next couple of years due to being flushed with money from the IPO – they seem to be going off on all sorts of tangents leading people to believe they have a masterplan for something big. I just think that Google have a long way to go with their web services before they’re ready for a move like this.
I have to admit, part of my dismissive argument is due to the fact that if on Friday Google *do* announce that they’re selling PCs through Wal-Mart, it has a lot of implications for my Krell experiment. We’ll wait and see.
Edit: Just noticed that the BBC picked it up too.