Richard Brandt asked me to look over his post on the oft-rumored possibility of a Google PC. I actually 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).
Richard, however, goes further, thinking that Google could succeed in PCs used mainly to run word processing, spreadsheets, etc.. His arguments include:
- Google has a well-regarded brand name. Check.
- Google might be able to make them cheaply, and even if they couldn’t, they could contract out the manufacture. Check.
- Google wouldn’t be burdened with Microsoft bloatware, and hence could make really cheap PCs. Hmm. There’s some truth to that, although it also is the case that some of that bloat provides actual functionality. And there might be more actual functionality in the future – e.g., speech recognition.
- Google is great at UIs, and could fix UIs like desktop Linux’s. Umm, I’m not sure Google is particularly great at UIs. But anybody with a decent usability lab should be able to turn out something that is, well, usable. Besides, if you ask my fellow posters on Slashdot, there isn’t anything wrong with Linux’s UI anyway.
- Their SaaS nature gives Google’s apps a big leg up on Microsoft Office. Hmm. First of all, to the extent you keep data on Google servers, you have to worry about Big Brother. The way things are going, that’s not a concern to dismiss lightly, no matter what your home country may be. That potentially major detail aside, SaaS is goodness. But it would take some pretty clever marketing to convince consumers it was an actual advantage. What’s more, the most obvious area of advantage – collaboration – is one that will also immediately bring privacy concerns to the fore. Assuming consumers actually care about privacy, of course …
As for Google’s ability to execute – well, they’re doing a very mixed job with the Google search appliance. At the high end of the market, it’s a joke, in terms of functionality and marketing alike. But in Microsoft-like manner, it’s eating into the low end due to its price and the company’s reputation.
So I’m not sure where I come down on this, except to ask – is the PC even the right device to think about? Or would a mobile device – video/music player, etc. – make more sense?