Brian (digibri) wrote,

Thoughts on google

Today, news spread of a senior software architect at Microsoft, Marc Lucovsky, leaving to join Google.
Mark shares some of his dissatisfaction with Microsoft here in his blog.

Mark Lucovsky was one of the former VMS engineers who was hired by Microsoft to develop Windows NT. He's incredibly experienced in operating system design.

Many people seem excited by his move and there is rumor and discussion that Google will be developing an operating system.

I'm not convinced.

My current theory is based on a number of factors. Firstly, Google is dedicated to hiring only the top 1% smartest and most talented people into their workforce, and Mark Lucovsky certainly fits that criteria. Secondly, Google's core competencies are rather interesting. Their most obvious compentencies are web services. Currently, they offer a search engine, free e-mail, contacts, usenet/web groups, mapping, personalized research, and more. These applications have a "flavor" or style that includes simplicity, intuitive interfaces, and the use of the XMLhttpRequest style of decoupling the user interaction with the browser from the browser's interaction with the web server. This last item on the list has been raising quite a stir amongst web devlopers, as it enables a web application to feel like a local application. Google's less well known core competencies include an installed massively parallel super computer, a custom file system that is spread across the thousands of nodes (the small cheap PCs that make the super computer), and a home-grown application interface for quickly developing robust software that runs on their massively parallel environment. Let me tell you abut their super computer. If they lose a PC, not one customer notices. If they lose a 100 PCs connected to a network switch, not one customer notices. They had a fire at one of their data centers once, and not one customer noticed - their system kept right on going.

So, why would they write an operating system? Such a product doesn't dovetail in with the rest of their core competencies. Remember, the people at Google are smart. Sure, one smart person might make an error of judgement - it happens all the time; but Google has scads of smart people.

My prediction is that they will continue to make web services. For instance, I (and many others) suspect one of their next applications will be an online calendar. But an online calendar is a short term goal. I'm convinced that Google is a long term company. They have vision. Currently, anyone can get a google mail account and have 1 gigabyte of storage for free. Regardless of how many MP3s or digital photos you store at home on your hard drive, a gigabyte is a lot. Today it's 2005, think about 10 years from now. Maybe Google will have expanded a gigabyte to 10 gigabytes, maybe 50 gigabytes, it's not an unreasonable thought at the rate hard drive storage increases. (Here's a hint, hard drive storage densities increase faster than processor speed). Now think for a moment, what else might be happening in 5 or 10 years? Our phones are already merging with Mp3 players and web browsers. A multitude of companies are furiously trying to develop flexible displays, electronic paper, and the like. Right now, you can fit a fold-up keyboard in your pocket and a tiny PDA/computer in your other pocket. You can use wireless to get on a wi-fi network, or plug your PDA or laptop into your 3G phone for bandwith.

I predict that Google is working towards providing an increasingly wide array of services that will continue to cater to our increasingly wired world. Think about it, right now I can upload a gigabyte of data to a free Google e-mail account and utilize their massively redundent filesystem. I can rest assured that the data will not disappear. I do not have that same assurance with my home PC, my laptop, or my PDA. How many people lose priceless data because they don't have a backup?

Who knows what Google will offer in the next 5 - 10 years? I suspect that even Google isn't completely certain. But that's a good thing. Admitting that one doesn't know everything inspires one to pay attention to customer needs and emerging trend; add that to the list of Google's core competencies.

Every now and then a pundit or marketing person says, "the network is the computer". In my opinion, Google is the only company out there that truly understands what that means and has the infrastructure to make it happen. In fact, when I think of Google, that's what I think about: infrastructure. They're not a software organization, they're an internet infrastructure company.

SO where does that leave Mark Lucovsky? Heck, there are a lot more operating systems out there than just on laptops and PCs. Every digital phone, PDA, set-top box, MP3 player, and the like has an OS. But he may be focussing on something completely different. Mark is an incredibly experienced software architect. I'm Sure he's not only limited to making device drivers.

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