January 4, 2006

The Google PC could be a winner

EDIT: News reports are now carrying vigorous denials of the rumor. Oh well.

The Register is highly skeptical of the rumored Google PC. Admittedly, it’s playing in the intersection of several areas with bad track records, including:

Even so, I think there’s a lot of potential for this idea.

To see why, please consider that there basically are four major uses for home PCs:

  1. Work-at-home
  2. Gaming
  3. Internet/communication
  4. Schoolwork

Presumably, people won’t look to get their work-at-home or gaming PCs at Wal-Mart. That leaves internet/communication and schoolwork. Well, Google is one heckuva heavyweight in internet/communication. If you want a machine to do web surfing, email, instant messaging, and so on, why exactly would Dell/HP/Microsoft be more attractive suppliers than Google?

And how does one do schoolwork on a PC? There’s a lot of internet use, some lightweight use of word processors and other personal productivity tools, and occasionally some use of specialized software (e.g., development tools if you’re learning programming, or various kinds of educational java applets in all sorts of disciplines). Any good machine for communication can meet all those needs perfectly well.

What about IE-only websites, you might ask? Well, the only reason those survive outside Redmond is either total idiocy on the part of webmasters, or a smug reliance on the fact that everybody has IE available at least as a backup browser. But the thing is — they don’t. Mac support for IE has been dropped, and there still are a bunch of Macs out there. IE-only sites, already on the decline, can be expected to dwindle away fast. This is no longer a serious barrier to non-Windows PCs.

Another change from the past is the role of ISPs. These days, there is no role for ISPs, at least in the US. Internet connectivity is being taken over by the telephone and cable TV companies. And they’re just as (in)capable of supporting non-Windows PCs as they are of supporting Windows connections.

Most likely, the Google PC will fizzle at first simply because neither Google nor Wal-Mart really knows how to market it. Besides, the idea of Google as a complete provider of Microsoft-alternative software is slightly futuristic. But if they take their lumps, come back with Version 2 quickly, and then follow Microsoft-like with a kickass Version 3, Google could make a serious dent in Microsoft’s market share.

So that’s the Google threat to Microsoft. Coming soon (I hope) — a post on the Microsoft threat to Google.


One Response to “The Google PC could be a winner”

  1. The Monash Report»Blog Archive » Would a Google PC succeed? on July 28th, 2006 5:31 am

    […] Richard Brandt asked me to look over his post on the oft-rumored possibility of a Google PC. First of all, I opined on this back in January, when the rumors were rife in connection with a supposed Wal-Mart sales/marketing agreement. I concluded that that would make a lot of sense for internet connectivity and student/homework uses (I didn’t consider work-at-home or gaming uses because that didn’t seem a good fit with Wal-Mart). The reasoning I came up with back then looks good in retrospect, with only minor tweaks (e.g., my new reason for not worrying about IE-only websites is the IE emulation capability in Firefox). […]

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