Linux

Google admits that it is going after Microsoft Office ... Is Windows next?


Eric Schmidt became the CEO of Google in 2001. A few years later he mentioned to journalist John Batelle that one of the fringe benefits of the job was that he was no longer competing with Microsoft. In the 1990's when Schmidt worked at Sun Microsystems and Novell, he had taken it on the chin from Microsoft in the server space.

At Google, Schmidt could focus on the building the organization to support the corporate goals of developing the perfect search engine, organizing the world's information, and making money without being evil. That had nothing to do with Microsoft, right?

"I was wrong," Schmidt admitted in his keynote last month at the Web 2.0 Expo. However, at that event Schmidt also revealed that Google was preparing to launch an online presentation application. That, in combination with Google's mail, word processing, and spreadsheet apps, meant that Google was going to offer the four foundation applications that make up the world's incumbent software suite, Microsoft Office. Nevertheless, Schmidt denied that the product was aimed at stealing market share from Microsoft's cash cow.

"We don't think it's a competitor," Schmidt said. "It doesn't have all the functionality, nor will it ever have all the functionality, of products like Microsoft Office."

Search, Ads, and Apps

At Google's annual shareholder meeting on May 10 -- less than a month after his comments at the Web 2.0 Expo -- Schmidt stated, "Our next strategy evolution is to really think about three components: search, ads and apps."

Google's focus on search and search ads is obvious, so the fact that the company is adding applications as the third piece of its top-line promise to users and shareholders means that it sees it sees online apps as its next big thing.

"That is a business that looks like it is going to grow very nicely for us," Schmidt said.

And that puts Google in direct competition with Microsoft, which is developing its Windows Live franchise of online applications to go with its MSN portal and the Microsoft Office application suite.

This is a major collision of giants that is going to play out over the next several years. Microsoft is trying to move more deliberately into the online space and grab a chunk of advertising revenue. Google is trying to move into the application space and grab more product revenue from users and businesses.

What about the OS?

So that brings us to the obvious question: What about the operating system? There have been rumors for years about a Google PC and/or Google OS that was based on Linux and aimed at providing a simple, intuitive desktop for the masses. Naturally, that Google PC would primarily be an Internet terminal that features Google's online applications.

The two images below are reportedly leaked screenshots from the Google OS. I can't verify whether they are legitimate or if they are simply cooked up by users.

Despite a lot of enthusiasm and expectations, the Linux desktop has been treading water for years. I have personally tried desktop Linux so many times and used so many different distros that I've lost count of both numbers. It works fine and it's stable, but the lack of the applications has always limited its appeal.

However, nothing could change the fortunes of Linux on the desktop more quickly than if Google jumped into the fray with a Google OS based on a Linux kernel.

Will Apple takes sides?

Since this is all conjecture anyway, let's go even further out on the limb. What if Google did release a simple OS that runs on standard Intel and AMD hardware and Apple decided to get involve by using its newly-gained experience in running an OS on Intel hardware to provide the Google OS on a Mac Mini? That's two really powerful brands in one upstart PC.

Such a move would seem unlikely because Apple would likely fear a negative impact on its OS X, but Steve Jobs likes making unlikely moves. It's no secret that he believes Apple should have won the OS wars of the 80's and 90's and then turned into the kind of software juggernaut that Microsoft has become, primarily because of Windows. So, if Jobs saw a big opportunity to help make a significant dent in the market share of Windows, it's hard believe that he wouldn't seize the moment. And don't forget that Schmidt also sits on the Board of Directors at Apple.

Final prognosis

Since the vast majority of Google users are accessing Google from a Windows PC and Microsoft has now emerged as Google's primary rival, it seems likely that Google is at least seriously considering the development of its own OS, if for nothing else than an altruistic play to give the masses a much more simple and inexpensive computing environment. The fact that such a play could disrupt the PC market -- not to mention the revenue stream and strategic advantage of its primary rival -- is only a bonus. At least that's the way Google loves to spin these kinds of moves.

That being said, I still doubt that a Google OS is coming any time soon. At the moment Google appears to be heavily focused on building a great set of apps and building out data centers to handle the traffic of the future and the growing expectation of 99.999% uptime. But once those pieces are in place, the next step appears pretty logical.

Your take

Do you think the new apps strategy is a prelude to the long-rumored Google OS and a showdown with Windows? What do you think is the likelihood that Apple could get involved by doing the hardware for a low-end device running a Google OS? Join the discussion.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

22 comments
frayluis777
frayluis777

I wish the standard OS and apps were better than MS, but there??s a long way to change the trends.

frayluis777
frayluis777

I wish the standard OS and apps were better tahn MS, but there??s a long way to change the trends.

Aaron A Baker
Aaron A Baker

Good Luck Google, you're going to need it. Regards Aaron

yobtaf
yobtaf

I'll be one of the first on board.

david.rowland
david.rowland

I was very disappointed with the release of IE7, and Firefox has its flaws too. I'd love to see Google offer a browser, they seem to think like a user and get things right.

Absolutely
Absolutely

I won't ask "what lack of applications" because I'm not trolling. The newest release of Debian offers me 18165 applications, including functional equivalents of every program [b]I used[/b] in Windows, when I used Windows. If this selection, provided by the extended open source community, is not vast enough, I think the single entity "Google" will have a difficult time providing any more applications, in the near future. So, my question to you is, [u]which[/u] applications, or what type, are lacking in Linux? I ask because I'd [b]really like[/b] to see a company give Microsoft a run for their money, and Google seems one of a very few likely candidates. [i]Despite a lot of enthusiasm and expectations, the Linux desktop has been treading water for years. I have personally tried desktop Linux so many times and used so many different distros that I?ve lost count of both numbers. It works fine and it?s stable, but the lack of the applications has always limited its appeal.[/i]

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

Last week, Eric Schmidt told investors that applications have joined search and advertising to become the third component in Google's big picture strategy, and essentially admitted that Microsoft is now a primary competitor. With this move, Google is officially making a run at dethroning Microsoft Office. Is this a prelude to a showdown with Windows, using the long-rumored Google OS? Could Apple get involved in the fracas? You can read my opinion here: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/hiner/?p=465

NOW LEFT TR
NOW LEFT TR

"and is done in conjunction with Women's organizations" - Good call!

NOW LEFT TR
NOW LEFT TR

Who knows what further information they would mine and the advertising they would show from having an OS!!!!! No 1 Search Engine and an OS would lock the search results with companies having to pay megabucks to be seen! We don't need another monster!

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

A Google browser has been rumored just as much as a Google OS and Google PC. I think the Google OS/PC would naturally include a Linux-based Google browser. The question would be whether the Google browser would also be developed for PC and Mac (I would assume so). If Google wants to go in that direction, I think they should just buy Flock and turn that into the Google browser.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

The "lack" of applications is probably not the issue. You're right about that and I'm glad you pointed it out. As you said, there are gazillions of applications in most Linux distros, especially Debian and SuSE. The problem isn't quantity or breadth of apps. It's more a problem of compatibility, consistency, and quality. Many of the Linux apps -- especially the GUI ones that it has to compete with against Windows -- simply aren't as good. Or, in some cases, they may be as good but there isn't enough of a difference to prompt a platform change, unless you are changing for other reasons. And even then, you often have to give up something if you're an end user. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of applications on Linux that are better than their Windows counterparts, but most of them are administrator tools like Kismet. Desktop Linux will never take off until there is a consistent set of standard software for end users. And that software needs to have some advantage over Windows apps in order to prompt migration. Google might be able to pull that off with software that is easier to ease and significantly cheaper, even if it gives up some advanced features. If that happens, Google could potentially carve out the lion's share of the market for itself and turn Microsoft into a premium player that can only sell its wares to users that need advanced functionality. But we're still a long way away from that, and you and I both know that if Microsoft saw that happening then it would likely respond in creative ways to undermine the loss of its user base. Should be interesting to watch in the coming years, and hopefully it will result in better and cheaper software for us all.

Absolutely
Absolutely

;) [i]?I was wrong,? Schmidt admitted in his keynote last month at the Web 2.0 Expo. However, at that event Schmidt also revealed that Google was preparing to launch an online presentation application. That, in combination with Google?s mail, word processing, and spreadsheet apps, meant that Google was going to offer the four foundation applications that make up the world?s incumbent software suite, Microsoft Office. Nevertheless, Schmidt denied that the product was aimed at stealing market share from Microsoft?s cash cow. ?We don?t think it?s a competitor,? Schmidt said. ?It doesn?t have all the functionality, nor will it ever have all the functionality, of products like Microsoft Office.?[/i] I think Schmidt was saying, very cunningly, that [u]Microsoft Office[/u] will not be a competitor, when his office suite is released, because his program will include only productive "productivity applications", ie, it will [u]not[/u] "ever have all the functionality (translation: malfunctionality) of products like Microsoft Office.?

NOW LEFT TR
NOW LEFT TR

So things would not really be much different. Why don't they just buy a current OS and re-brand if this is the case???

grax
grax

> The "lack" of applications is probably not the issue I was surprised at your small kick at Linux because it certainly was not the issue but it does help to wind up the Linux denizens around here. Your original point was that, despite disclaimers, Google is about to offer an Office Application to compete with Microsoft Office. Since versions of MSOffice before 2007 will not work with Vista manufacturers, like Toshiba, are generously bundling OpenOffice with their machines. This could be the double-wammy. > It's more a problem of compatibility, consistency, and quality Certainly with Microsoft products but they don?t seem to have suffered as a result. The fact is that most computer users don?t really comprehend these things. They just want stuff to work as they expect it to. > Desktop Linux will never take off until there is a consistent set of standard software for end users. I disagree. As I?ve said before, Linux will only expand when manufacturers have the courage to offer it pre-installed. People want computers that work for them ?out of the box?. Dell seems inclined to try again. We shall have to wait and see. As for a war between Microsoft and Google? I doubt it. They?ll blow hot and cold, giving journalists something to blather about, but in the end, like AOL, they?ll make a deal that?ll stitch up the ordinary punter. That?s business!

Kiltie
Kiltie

here are a few: WGA DRM VISTA SPP money and a small correction Jason, your article mentions Eric Raymond as being on Apples board, surely you meant Eric Schmidt?

Absolutely
Absolutely

[i]Should be interesting to watch in the coming years, and hopefully it will result in better and cheaper software for us all.[/i] Well, it sure can't get any ... Nope, not gonna say it! It looks like all the expert readers are playing their hands close, but I'm guessing a lot of them are very interested in this topic, even though they aren't interested in opining publicly, yet.

denberg1
denberg1

There is only one app I am lacking to make my conversion totally over to Linux - AutoCAD, and associated land surveying programs and coordinate geometry. If one company could make a good CAD program for Linux, then you'd feel the wind from the mighty SWOOSH of people heading over to Linux

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

then two weeks later he admitted to investors that Google was planning to become a big player in "apps," including office productivity apps. That's the point I was trying to make when I mentioned Schmidt's comments at the May 10 investors' meeting -- Google is now admitting that it's competing with Microsoft on apps. Because that investor's meeting was just two weeks ago, I'm sure that's probably why Schmidt was so evasive about the situation at the Web 2.0 Expo when he announced Google's forthcoming presentation application (a.k.a. PowerPoint competitor).

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

I think they'd simply want to build a stripped-down, easy-to-us OS/PC Web-surfing appliance for the masses. But that's just how I read the tea leaves in looking at Google's current strategies.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

Thank you for noting that. I made the correction. Jason

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Install VMWare Server and build yourself a custom Windows install tweaked to your AutoCAD needs. There are Linux native CAD (there must be at least one) but if that's the tool you need then it's worth the VM. Windows comes in handy sometimes and since you already own the license; give it a look. I think there is also a recommendation to use WINE so I won't add to that for now.

Absolutely
Absolutely

please start a discussion or blog about it, OK?