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December 17, 2007

Slowly Transitioning to Online Software

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 (, Gmail doubled its US users to 20.1 million in November (source:comScore).

Replacing desktop software with web applications


  1. There's another major advantage of not keeping data on a single computer: freedom from upgrade hell.

    Have you ever been discouraged from upgrading to a new, faster computer by the time required to install and reconfigure all important applications on the new system, and move all the data as well? External disk drives or CDs/DVDs anyhow?

  2. I would like to see the the 'Gears' project mature. The ability to have the 'cloud' data available offline has to be there in order to fully embrace the net-centric data. There are times when the net isn't available and I need access to some important data. Some offline copy would be just the ticket. Without it, there's no way to abandon the desktop PC.

  3. Important to note that Microsoft is playing in both fields with Office Live. On the other hand, Google only has a presence online.

  4. True, but Microsoft primarily stays proprietary while Google is trying to make all its app free (at least for general users). Google's plan is to get as many people as possible on the internet so that it results in even more revenues from Add for Google.

  5. What Dave Girouard said was perfectly true - for certain tasks you need Word or Excel. You want the fast, powerful tools.

    Distributed or cloud computing has many advantages for many people however, mainly because your data isn't tied to a single piece of hardware.

    By switching to gmail instead of own domains email, I can access all my email at home on my Mac, at work on my PC, or on the go with my Linux laptop.

    For the same reason, I've switched to google calendar and googledocs.

    But I've also made the move in the other direction - where once Flickr and Piknik were good enough for my photoediting, I've ended up buying Lightroom, because a fast and powerful desktop package made more sense. I'm still not averse to making last minute adjustments to my shots in Piknik however.