New York Times has a long article about the differences between Google and Microsoft in terms of vision. "The growing confrontation between Google and Microsoft promises to be an epic business battle. It is likely to shape the prosperity and progress of both companies, and also inform how consumers and corporations work, shop, communicate and go about their digital lives. Google sees all of this happening on remote servers in faraway data centers, accessible over the Web by an array of wired and wireless devices — a setup known as cloud computing. Microsoft sees a Web future as well, but one whose center of gravity remains firmly tethered to its desktop PC software."
Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO, envisions that 90% of today's computing tasks can be moved online. "To explain, Mr. Schmidt steps up to a white board. He draws a rectangle and rattles off a list of things that can be done in the Web-based cloud, and he notes that this list is expanding as Internet connection speeds become faster and Internet software improves. In a sliver of the rectangle, about 10 percent, he marks off what can't be done in the cloud, like high-end graphics processing." (my emphasis)
Google also thinks that people don't use all the features that are available in many desktop applications. "If you're creating a complex document like an annual report, you want Word, and if you're making a sophisticated financial model, you want Excel. That's what the Microsoft products are great at. But less and less work is like that," said Google's Dave Girouard.
And for Google, things are going in the right direction: more people have access to fast Internet connection, users don't want to keep their data on a single computer as they found the advantages of sharing and collaborating online. There's also the advantage of a much lower price for storage and computing. Google's "vast data centers are designed by Google engineers for efficiency, speed and low cost, giving the company an edge in computing firepower and allowing it to add offerings inexpensively."
For now, 2.000 companies start to use Google Apps every day (most try the free version), Google Docs had 1.6 million US users last month (source:Compete.com), Gmail doubled its US users to 20.1 million in November (source:comScore).
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