Everything is a Journey

July 10th, 2009 4 Comments

Photo by gregsdumbflickr from Flickr used under Creative Commons

Photo by gregsdumbflickr from Flickr used under Creative Commons

The year I started with Oracle (1996) was the year the Network Computer (NC) was announced.

The NC was about a decade ahead of its time due to a number of factors, and it’s funny to me that netbooks are the latest rage. The promise of netbooks is essentially the promise of the NC, i.e. an affordable device used for connecting to the Intertubes.

Sure, the NC was a diskless thin client and a set-top box, and a netbook is toy laptop. So, the hardware’s very different.

Netbooks are the latest fad, with several companies potentially joining the growing number of netbook manufacturers.

And now, Google has announced they are jumping in as well with Google Chrome OS which will run on netbooks.

Of course, the ‘tubes is all abuzz with rumors and speculation. I have no desire to break down the details of vaporware, which it is right now. More interesting, for the moment at least, is the path Google has taken to this point.

For years, I’ve thought Google is a legit threat to the software powerhouses of the world. Even as recently as last year, people were still doubting, calling Google “just” an advertising business, which it is. Yeah like Oracle is “just” a database business.Web apps make sense, and who better to provide them than Google, with their massive infrastructure of data centers. Gmail came first in 2004, followed by productivity apps. These apps all use Javascript heavily, making the speed and experience highly dependent on the browser’s ability to render JS.

So it made sense for Google to build its own browser, optimized to run its apps, natch.

Of course the browser depends on the O/S, and Chrome (and Chromium) run differently on various O/S flavors. So, it makes sense that Google build its own O/S, optimized to run Chrome and all its apps.

I’m a sucker for history, especially technology-related history, and it’s interesting to trace the journey of large companies.

Why Google and not Yahoo? Both started in search. Yahoo’s webmail went live in 1997 and boasts between two and three times more users than Gmail. What happened that turned the tide in that battle?

It’s funny that Microsoft’s stranglehold on the O/S business (for both enterprises and consumers) is still very desirable. It might be the most desirable market in technology. All those years ago, the NC aimed to chip away at Microsoft’s dominance in the home market.

Today, Google Chrome OS on a netbook aims to do the same thing. Fun fact: the majority of netbooks predominently run a slimmed down version of XP.

Windows has been losing marketshare over the last few years, taken mainly by Apple, but also in small part by Linux distros. However, as with browser marketshare numbers, I wonder if having multiple machines is causing this, e.g. in 2005 I had two Windows machines, today, I have one Windows machine (still two licenses), three Macs, and one Linux box.

So, marketshare is a funny thing to calculate as people buy more devices without replacing existing ones.

Even so, Microsoft is taking these slippages seriously. I wonder how the next couple years play out as Google Chrome OS comes out to challenge the low end of the Windows empire. It seems reasonable to expect that other journeys will wind up in netbooks, due to increasing demand and low production costs, maybe Oracle’s?

I’m enjoying the journey so far. How about you?

Find the comments.


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4 Responses to “Everything is a Journey”

  1. Gary Says:

    “These apps all use Javascript heavily, making the speed and experience highly dependent on the browser’s ability to render JS”
    Not just Javascript, but the 'Asynchronous' magic of Ajax. The irony is that this, the XMLHttpRequest, was invented by Microsoft to give an edge to its own browser Outlook client.

  2. Jake Says:

    Sure, they're very AJAX-heavy. Didn't think I needed to clarify that :) Did not know that bit about MSFT, though. Interesting tidbit, especially considering how differently IE flavors handle AJAX.

  3. Brian Huff Says:

    why buy a netbook when you can get an iPod Touch, or an iPhone?

    Its not like netbooks are all that useful… they're like a dust buster: too small for big jobs, too big for small jobs. They'll sell, but like all fads, they will crash and burn…

  4. Jake Says:

    Agreed, I don't see a lot of value in netbooks for me for that very reason, in fact, I mentioned that when the iPhone came out:

    http://theappslab.com/2007/07/05/did-you-buy-an

    The price points are pretty similar, and even the argument of a long term contract with a cell carrier is a bit off, considering you have to get the netbook, you know, on the net and everything.

    Dunno about crashing and burning, but I think the lack of a good network bundle hurts them.

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