Written by Emre Sokullu and edited by Richard MacManus
GoogleOS blockbuster, we try to clarify our thoughts on what GoogleOS will look like. You'll have to read to the end for the exciting conclusion, but we can hint that Linux creator Linus Torvalds has a starring role to play. Please note that these are not insider rumors, but just some educated guesses ;-)Did the above image shock you? No, this is not a real Google advert! But something similar may well turn into reality. In this sequel to our original
In our first article we examined 3 GoogleOS scenarios:
- It could be a WebOS (a.k.a. virtual desktop), like YouOS
- It could be a full-featured Linux distribution, like Ubuntu
- It could be a (optionally BIOS based) portable mini Linux distro, with the sole purpose of establishing an internet connection and then firing up Firefox as default browser.
Also there were some outstanding suggestions and ideas in the comments section to that first post. One of them (comment #49) noted that Google could utilize virtualization technology to host multiple operating systems smoothly - this technology has been developed by Microsoft, VMWare, Xen and others.
However our conclusion is that the most feasible one is the 3rd scenario - a mini Linux distro, that users can very easily install and essentially makes Google/Firefox the default Internet services. Now let's get into some detail about that option...
1) Purpose: Cut the Middleman – Windows
Some of you reacted to our first article by saying that it is silly for Google to get into the operating system business - that they are a search company and they don't want to lose their focus. And at this point in time, we agree that it doesn't make sense for Google to enter the OS space. That's why we wrote that all these scenarios will only take place if the new Windows Vista OS defaults to Live.com – which will then put pressure on Google. We think Google will have to respond to that scneario, so it'll be well within their business focus then.
There is no doubt that operating systems have become little more than a commodity in today's world. The most popular server operating systems Linux and FreeBSD are free and open source. There are many others that are free and open source too. The fact that Sun Microsystems has recently open sourced and released for free their Solaris OS also proves this. The new trend is Internet as the development platform - and all new innovations take place in Internet space and not on the desktop anymore. We are seeing more and more Meebos, Writelys, salesforce.coms - but not so many Intuits anymore.
So really, operating systems have become no more than a middleman for the internet. You use an OS only to access the Internet, which then takes over as the platform to socialize with people and create/consume data. In other words, the Internet is not a mere component of an operating system anymore - because it's fast becoming impossible to imagine an offline operating system.
All of this pushes us to think that if Google sees a threat from Microsoft's latest Windows OS, then they can release a practical operating system that will fit into today's world. That is, it must have these characteristics:
- Free, because the OS is a commodity now
- It's main purpose is to connect you to the Net
- Compact and portable, because increasingly we no longer use one single computer - we use many (PC, mobile, tv and other devices)
So the purpose of a GoogleOS will be to cut out the middleman (Windows) when it comes to connecting to the Internet.
2) Strategy: Spread it via internet ads
Google is not the first to try beat up Microsoft in their own game. But there has been no decisive victory against the Redmond company so far. So everyone knows that Google should be well prepared with a great strategy this time. And the first condition of this is awareness, because for most people Windows = Operating System. So first and foremost, Google should break this dogma and create awareness of its alternative product.
We believe that Google will spread the word with their typical tactics - i.e. no big advertising campaigns in traditional media, but as always a big buzz campaign via user recommendations and reviews, blogs and other viral marketing elements.
Internet ads will play an important role in long-term marketing of GoogleOS. Firefox was very successfully marketed in this manner and Google can do the same with GoogleOS. The current referral offerings of Google AdSense are:
- Firefox -> $1 if downloaded, installed and homepage visited
- Picasa -> $1 if downloaded, installed and run
- Google AdSense -> $100 for the referred's first $100 gain
- Google AdWords -> $20 for the referred's first $100 advertising
But depending on the acceptance of Vista, Google can give a greater incentive of revenue for GoogleOS. Something like:
- Linux -> $0.5 per completed shipping request
- Linux -> $2 per downloaded, burned to CD or thumbdrive (via an easy interface) and booted - in other words, accessed to the Internet and defaulting to the Google homepage
3) The Name
First of all, the name will not be GoogleOS, Googlix or even Google. Our guess is that Google will simply use the Linux name for their new operating system. They won't try to rebrand and will prefer to take advantage of Linux' neutrality.
This is the same thing as with Firefox. The reasons:
- The main marketing strategy will be ads. So it's better to leave GoogleOS with a neutral name. As an advertiser you would prefer promoting neutral products. This would allow even non profit sites to use and also it will be an incentive for the huge geek world. Google knows this – and that's what they did with Firefox.
- The awareness of Linux is already very large. So why not use it? Many people are already wondering about Linux and what it offers - but have not had the opportunity or are scared to give it a try. GoogleOS would be perfect for those people.
- Google doesn't want to seem too distracted. They don't want to be known as an operating system company, even though in a business sense it may become imperative to do a GoogleOS.
- If Google did rebrand Linux, some may accuse it of 'doing evil' – so no need for such hassles for Google.
Needless to say, to be able to do that - as with any other Linux company - Google also will need to pay large amounts to Linus Torvalds, the holder of the Linux trademark.
And note that Google is not alone in this. Oracle, another NASDAQ giant, created its own version of Linux - with an emphasis on the Linux brand instead of rebranding it.
4) Acquisition? No...
http://google.com/jobs that they're still very hungry for this position.Google already has many Linux Kernel level engineers in their team. And you can see from
So we don't think they will spend much money to acquire a company like Ubuntu (Canonical) – because they are known to be very selective and acquire small but efficient companies only. But we may expect huge hirings from the Mountain View company. Don't be surprised if they hire the father of Linux, Linus Torvalds!
That's something that Google likes to do; they have the creator of Python (the main programming language used in Google applications), Guido Van Rossum, and the father of the Internet, Vint Cerf, in their team already.
5) Disruptive Offering
All promising Google products had a disruptive offering that shook the market up and changed the rules.
Gmail's unlimited storage space promise is perhaps the best example of this. This time, besides the advantageous ad campaign for web site owners we mentioned, Google can come up with a Free Support offering. Because so far, Linux has been free - but support is paid for. If you think free support will be way too costly for Google, you are wrong. Because this will be such a small system, that the number of possible problems will be very limited.
Secondly, Google may introduce a seamless VXML powered phone support system that will be close to human quality, but depend on machines.
And thirdly, this will be for the clear advantage of Google - because if they want to beat Windows at their own game, they should definitely play the game perfectly and embrace non-geek users (who for example are unable to change a few changes in their BIOS).
Another possibility is that Google could send copies of their operating system to consumers, via CD-ROM, free of charge. Don't say this is impossible, because Ubuntu already did it! Ubuntu is known to send free CDs all around the world, under a program called shipit.
We end this post with a passage from Nostradamus, slightly modified ;-)
An Emperor shall be born near
Mountain View. Italy
simple search engine he will rise to the
A great troop shall come through
Great swarms of
ads shall arise all around
the Internet. bees
The destroyer shall ruin
system. a city
defeated ones will die in the
exhausted closed source territory. white
OK perhaps all of this is fantasyland. You may even think we smoke too much crack. But even if these claims do not come true, there is some valuable analysis here that hopefully helps understand Google's patterns and potential.
Tell us what you think, we have just covered 5 points here - but you may have other predictions. Or criticisms of our line of thought. After all, Nostradamus does not help us with GoogleOS predictions, we have to make those ourselves ;-)