Analysis of Google Apps and some general Google strategy. Related subjects include:

January 4, 2008

Early thoughts on outsourcing to Google Mail

Google doesn’t just offer free email of the form You can also outsource your own domain to them (free if you accept incoming ads, $50/year/mailbox if you don’t). I’ve chosen to do this, because:

  1. I need a mail host that can stand up under the kind of mailbomb/DDOS attacks that shut me down twice in the past year.
  2. Similarly, I want to diversify my email addresses among two providers, rather than leaving them all with my general web hosting company.
  3. David Ferris first wrote up Google Mail outsourcing, with a favorable view, last July. And some of his criticisms (e.g., lack of IMAP support) have already been rectified.
  4. What’s more — as I remarked last night, David and his associate Richi Jennings have been voting with their feet, and moving their own email to Google. That’s an impressive endorsement. Ferris Research is a serious rival to Gartner as an analyst firm covering email, and Richi — who evidently LOVES Gmail — has also carved out a non-trivial identity as an expert in his own right.
  5. Free sounds good, compared with the alternatives. Read more
July 28, 2006

Would a Google PC succeed?

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:

Read more

July 21, 2006

Google vs. Microsoft

Richard Brandt responded to my challenge by explaining in some detail why he thinks Microsoft will never catch up with Google. His argument basically boils down to a very well-reasoned “Why would they? The reasons why Microsoft succeeded in overtaking almost all other PC software vendors don’t apply in this case.” And clearly Google has enormous resources to throw at businesses like search, plus a corporate culture that seems from the outside to be a lot more productive than Microsoft’s these days.

But on the other hand – what exactly is Google’s sustainable advantage?

Read more

April 17, 2006

Google in China — Tough question, wrong question

Henry Blodgett poses the question — if you don’t think Google should have cooperated with the Chinese authorities in fostering censorship, what do you think it should have done instead? I think that’s the wrong question (although I’ll answer it below anyway). Rather, I think the right question is:

What can the rest of us do to help overcome Chinese censorship?

In the 1980s, Western information flow was huge in bringing down the Iron Curtain. The main influence was free TV, undermining communist-regime propaganda by showing how people in the West lived (much more affluently than in the East, for starters). George Soros also famously donated copiers, fax machines, etc., which seem to have been a nontrivial aid to internal information flow.

China of course is more open today than communist countries were then. TV, movies, travel, the uncensored part of the internet — they all help ensure a reasonably high level of understanding of Western thought and Western information. Even so, the Chinese government tightly controls discussion of — and access to infomation about — certain sensitive political issues, such as democracy, Taiwan, Tibet, etc., just as several Arab governments do on their favorite hotbutton issues.

But we in the West, if we choose, should be able to overcome that censorship! We can’t even keep ourselves from getting unwanted information — email spam, search engine results spam, etc. Getting information to Chinese people who want it should, by comparison, be straightforward. (I’ll write up a post with a specific plan shortly; the URL should appear in the trackback section to this post.) That’s where effort and attention need to go.

Back to Blodgett’s question. As a number of insightful links and comments in Blodgett’s thread illustrate, Google’s decision about whether or not to cooperate was not an easy one. I really only have two observations to add to those there. First, this isn’t just about short-term revenue and market presence. It’s also about developing technology cost-effectively that will be useful in any future Chinese endeavors under any future Chinese regime.

Second, that technology development point cuts both ways. Google will be training a lot of smart Chinese engineers in exactly the skills they’d need to make automated censorship more effective. And for that reason, I think Google should have stayed away.

Since I also favor proactive steps to fight censorship, I guess that puts me in Blodgett’s “Option III” group.

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.

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