Google is rich, with a market cap of $183 billion -- that's billion with a "b" -- already 71 percent the value of its much more established archrival Microsoft. With those resources, Google has created more and more software products in an attempt to build a sustainable business outside of the search-based ads that account for most of its revenue -- and be the center of your computing universe.
For several years, Google seemed to be focused on Web-based collaboration tools, with its Blogger.com service and acqusition of JotSpot (now called Google Sites) as prime examples. But more recently, Google has moved into the cloud business, producing one product after another in a pattern that shows clearly a desire to replace the desktop paradigm -- which has Microsoft's Windows and Microsoft Office at its core. Google has designs to replace the desktop with the cloud, and Microsoft with itself.
The forthcoming Google Chrome OS is the baldest statement of that mission, redefining a laptop into a Net appliance that relies almost entirely on the cloud for the apps people would use routinely. But that's just the latest salvo. Google has already launched its Google Apps set of services, which are starting to be taken seriously even by large companies and government agencies to handle e-mail, word processing, and more. Microsoft has responded to this direct strike at its business with its cloud/desktop hybrid version of Office, the forthcoming Office 2010 Web Apps. But Google keeps pushing: Its still-in-beta Google Wave promises to attack one of Microsoft's most beloved products, its SharePoint collaboration software.
InfoWorld has put together a package of articles that explores Google's attempt to become the center of everyone's technology universe:
- Robert L. Scheier's "Can Google really hack it in business?" looks at Google Apps and evaluates how seriously businesses can take each of its components, such as Gmail and Google Docs. Scheier's reporting reveals where Google Apps is a serious option, where it is not, and where the jury is still out.
- Galen Gruman has put together a slideshow of Google's business applications, "A tour of Google's business apps," so you can see in one place all the options Google wants to tempt you with.
- Neil McAllister pits Google Docs against Microsoft's Office Web apps in an InfoWorld Test Center head-to-head comparison, "Office suites in the cloud."
- Galen Gruman examines whether Google's mobile OS, Android, has what it takes to provide a real challenge to Apple's widely admired iPhone in his analysis "Android 2.0: The iPhone killer at last?" and in his Test Center comparison, "Deathmatch: Motorola Droid versus iPhone."
- Several of InfoWorld's experts examine the Chrome OS's potential for creating a new type of computing device that might replace -- or at least rival -- the traditional laptop and netbook. Neil McAllister debunks the myths around the Chrome OS and explains exactly what Google has promised. Randall C. Kennedy argues that the Chrome OS is destined to fail, and shows how Microsoft could easily kill off the Chrome OS. Kennedy also provides a visual tour of the early beta Chrome OS so you can see what it actually is. Eric Knorr tells why he can't wait for a "Chromebook." And Bill Snyder explains why the Chrome OS is a welcome addition to our computing options, not a replacement for existing ones.
This article, "Can Google succeed outside of search?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments on cloud computing, Google, Google Apps, and Chrome OS at InfoWorld.com.