Recent chatter indicates Google may be preparing to launch its own internet browser. But this might be only the first step in a much more massive Google strategy that could include a GooglePC and Google ISP service.
Concerning the Google Browser, many are giving the title GBrowser to this rumored challenger of Internet Explorer. The evidence that supports Google's GBrowser efforts are as follows:
- Google has recently hired several key programmers from Microsoft who worked on the Windows operating system
- Google hired key programmers from Sun and BEA Systems
- Google hired Ben Goodger, the genius behind the upstart Firefox browser (which Forbes says is "better than Internet Explorer by leaps and bounds)
- Google has even hired Microsoft programmers working on future operating systems Avalon and Longhorn (updates that are already out-of-date thanks to Google Desktop Search)
- Finally, last year Google registered the domain name GBrowser.com
Introducing the GooglePC at Under $300
GBrowser would make it easier for Google to control both data and applications, bypassing Microsoft entirely. In fact, it's conceivable that Google could launch its own PC which wouldn't need any Microsoft software. Here's what the Google PC could look like:
- A low-cost PC running the Linux operating system (saves $100 to $150 versus Microsoft's operating system)
- Features the GBrowser, the much speculated Google Browser
- Email provided by GMail, a current free service offered by Google (no one really needs Outlook)
- Microsoft-compatible applications powered by GBrowser and/or free open source software like GNOME's spreadsheet Gnumeric and word processor Abiword
- DVD support via Intermedia's popular WinDVD program (in fact, just this past week Google and Intermedia announced a partnership; nothing too explicit, but it shows that they are talking and have a relationship)
There are various ways a Google PC could be priced. On the cheap side, a minimal setup for basic tasks could cost at little as $150 to $300, including monitor. Thus, Google is not only a threat to Microsoft, but to Dell, HP, Gateway, Sony and other PC manufacturers as well. Google could subcontract out the actual manufacturing of the GooglePCs.
Finally, one more note, Google already sells enterprise search servers online at their Google Store. And why is the Google Store selling seemingly silly products like the Google Fast Lane Travel Mug, Google Classic Infant Rib Hat and Google Icon Stix and Stonz Magnet Game? A plausible explanation is that they are trying to gain expertise on how to run an online store in order to provide a platform for selling the GooglePC direct to consumers.
Google ISP and The "Free" GooglePC
Just this past Friday, Google inched closer to entering the high speed ISP arena by introducing the Google Web Accelerator. The Google Web Accelerator promises to speed up the high speed internet browsing experience by taking advantage of Google's massive centralized cache of the internet as well as a small portion of a user's hard drive. (We tested it and discovered we could surf the net 15% faster.) Google can use this muscle to forge partnerships with one or more high speed ISPs and could brand the high speed service Google ISP.
So what? Yahoo already has a high speed ISP partnership with SBC, but that relationship is entirely on paper. Any Google ISP relationship would leverage the Google Web Accelerator to speed up the browsing experience.
Are you still saying so what? OK. Well, it's feasible that Google could give away the GooglePC for "free" in exchange for a fixed term premium high speed internet service contract. ISPs may be forced to offer and co-promote a Google ISP service in their regions in a similar way that most cable companies need to carry and pay for ESPN. Furthermore, anytime the Google Web Accelerator is distributed, the Google Toolbar comes along for the ride, increasing Google's reach.
In short, the GooglePC could encapsulate all of the Google features on a PC without needing one cent of Microsoft software. Google ISP and the Google Web Accelerator would further vertically integrate Google into the internet surfing experience.
Bypassing the PC Route via the Google NetPC (The Un-PC PC)
Finally, some say Google could instead offer a NetPC (a cross between a dummy terminal and a bare bones PC where all data would be stored and served centrally at Google). Per this example of a NetPC setup, you can see that a NetPC looks like a regular PC except for there is no bulky "big box" that makes lots of noise and produces a lot of heat. Just plug the "little box" into the internet and you're ready to go. Almost all files would be stored at Google, although a small local hard drive or flash drive would still exist locally for caching reasons.
One big advantage of NetPC's is that you'd never need to install software since Google would provide everything that most people need (email, browsing, word processing, spreadsheets and perhaps a few other things). What about games? If Google launches the Google NetPC, expect game companies like Electronic Arts to build for-fee games directly into the Google NetPC system (housed centrally at Google).
It's worth pointing out that the Google NetPC would be different than any NetPC on the market, since it would have millions of users. As such, Google could expand the size of the NetPC marketplace, ultimately lowering prices to perhaps $50 to $150 (from current levels of $300 to $500), including keyboard, monitor and mouse. Of course, Google could offer the Google NetPC for free in exchange for a fixed term Google ISP contract.
If these prices sound optimistic, observe how Apple's iPod has driven down prices of miniature high-capacity hard drives. Google could do for the PC and NetPC what Apple's iPod did for personal music players.
The Google NetPC also increases the chances of a Google-owned Google ISP. Google could choose to increase the fiber optic "fat pipe" coming out of its Mountain View headquarters. By going this route, Google could buy or build their own ISP, making a Google ISP a reality. Thus, the Google NetPC running GBrowser, the Google Web Accelerator and various other Google tools could exclude the following from the revenue equation: Microsoft, computer manufacturers and various ISPs. Ah, the plot thickens!
International Expansion: Google in China and India
The current combined population of China and India is 2.9 billion, compared to 293 million in the US. Thus, China and India represent 10X the population of the US and both have a rising middle class. Whoever can get their foot "in the door" in these countries has opportunity to earn massive amounts of revenue.
Which is more likely? (1) The rising middle classes in China and India will shell out $500 to $1000 for a PC loaded with unnecessary Microsoft software. Or (2) the rising middle classes in China and India will shell out less than $100 for a NetPC since it does the same things a full-scale PC does.
Google is in a great position to provide a NetPC to both China and India. At the very least, they'd make a great technology partner for whatever company the governments of China and India favor. One last time - this could be accomplished without any Microsoft software. So Google is indeed a huge threat to Bill Gates and Microsoft.
Look for Google to bring GBrowser to market within 2 years, the GooglePC within 3 years and Google ISP partnerships within 5 years. For further validation of this theory, consider what Fortune Magazine is saying:
The idea that Google will one day marginalize Microsoft's operating system and bypass Windows applications is already starting to become reality. The most paranoid people at Microsoft even think "Google Office" is inevitable. Google is taking over operating system features too, like desktop search.
Onward mighty Google!