Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Saturday, January 07, 2021

Amid the far-reaching announcements this week about Google’s new video services and other media-convergent wares, the release of Google Pack, a suite of (mostly) Web-centric applications, merits the most attention.

Aside from the immediate gee-whiz factor of having Google provide a quick-and-easy download depository of 13 programs (customizable to user preferences), I see two distinct tactical actions here that could lead to broader strategic moves:

- The decision to include Mozilla Firefox in Pack’s suite could be the sort of boost that the browser needs to become even close to ubiquitous. Right now, the trumpeting about how much market share Firefox has been gaining at Internet Explorer’s expense overlooks the reality of the situation: Microsoft still dominates the browser market, especially among mainstream (non-techie) consumers. What’s more, that will continue, because IE has an overwhelming advantage in being bundled within the Windows OS. It’s a situation where the average non-intensive enduser never seeks out an alternative to browsing, because there’s no awareness that there even is an alternative (a good chunk of casual users equate that blue “e” icon with “the Internet”, and have no compelling reason — security flaws notwithstanding — to even think another gateway even exists).

I still think that’s an insurmountable edge for IE, but now there’s a counter-bundle for Firefox in Google Pack. By delivering the alternative browser as part of a friendly, Google-branded collection of Internet helpers — something Google’s already trailblazed with Google Toolbar and other apps — it introduces and familiarizes the notion of another gateway application for Web surfing for the average person. It could be the right delivery channel for truly spreading Firefox, although I’m not sure it really challenges the OS/desktop presence. Which leads to…

- Google Pack looks less like a Windows helper and more like a start-you-up OS software suite. Suddenly, the rumors of a Google-produced bare-bones PC (since discredited) don’t sound so far-fetched. I can see Pack being a trial balloon. If it develops a large user base among Windows and Mac users, trackable by user updates, that would be enough to convince Google to go ahead and release its own PC hardware. The boxes would come running nothing but a Linux OS, and a direct Internet connection to Google Pack for making the thing actually useful.

The big thing missing right now is an Office-like suite of programs. Even casual users need a word processing program, and probably a little more. Sun’s OpenOffice is an obvious candidate, but it’s curious that it’s not already in there. If Sun doesn’t want to partner with Google, and Google doesn’t want to commit resources to developing its own programs in this space (and it probably shouldn’t, as they’re very support-intensive), it would leave a huge hole.

Google’s moves throughout the rest of the year should be interesting. Google Pack might be the one area worth monitoring for a general barometer of the company’s performance.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/07/2021 04:10:05 PM
Category: Internet, Tech, Business | Permalink |

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  1. As an avid user of Linux, I continue to be disappointed by the Windows-only support from the Google Empire . I enjoy their clean, accessible interfaces. However, not even google can bring me to use Windows on any regular basis. That said, I am very pleased by Google’s support of Firefox and agree that the Google brand image may be just the push that Firefox needs to encourage the masses to use it.

    As for lack of an Office Suite, there are already a number of players in colloborative, online writing, applications. Such as with Picassa and some of the other tools, I would expect Google to pick up what they consider to be the leader in the field and incorporate it into their suite.

    Comment by Jonathan Foley — 01/07/2021 @ 08:54:35 PM

  2. I’m sure Google will eventually pick (what they consider to be) a winner. I just think it’s noteworthy that they hadn’t already picked one to include in the debut of Pack. Not significant in the long run, but I’d think they’d have already put that to bed.

    Do you think collaborative word-processing apps would be the way to go? Word’s interface and functions are familiar quantities, so I’d think Google would want to stick with that. Don’t want to scare away the majority.

    Comment by CT — 01/08/2021 @ 01:40:18 PM

  3. True, the Office model is firmly embedded. However, the prospect of accessible from anywhere applications with enough familiarity to make the transition less painful may prove powerful enough to supplant this. Based on their record so-far, Google favors clean, accessible interfaces. Office on the other hand is burdened with every imaginable feature one could want. How many of these features do most people use on a daily basis?

    Comment by Jonathan Foley — 01/08/2021 @ 02:58:30 PM

  4. Well, that’s practically the same as asking, “How much hard-drive space do you actually use?” People buy systems with 80+GB of space, but never use it all (I had a 20GB drive on my last computer, and I barely got it half-full after five years of daily use). Even if you never use the boatload of features, they’re just-in-case fallbacks.

    Primary thing a Google offering in this space would need is full (or close enough) compatibility with MS Office documents. No sense in making it a harder sell job than it needs to be.

    Comment by CT — 01/08/2021 @ 09:14:59 PM

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