How Google stole the show

My last post got me thinking about the evolution of technology, the Internet, and how Google came to steal the whole show. What follows, in short, is a history of the digital age as told by Hujo Blogger. I don’t know if it is perfectly accurate but I promise to at
least make an interesting argument.

While looking at my list of digital age technologies I realized that 10 years ago the only ones I used were a computer, the word processor, and the instant messenger. A lot has happened in the past decade and here is my explanation of what happened. There were three metrics that defined what we could and couldn’t accomplish with our computing: Processor speed, RAM, and Hard Drive. Hard drive was the one that would determine off the bat if you could or couldn’t use an application. RAM and processors determined how fast you could use something but ultimately the bottleneck was in the amount of hard drive space. Keep that thought.

The Internet hits with AOL. Eventually we realize web browsers, instant messaging, email, and ISPs are four separate things. Google comes along and makes the whole Internet thing make sense with their search. Their AdWords advertising program makes the business part make sense.

Now, in the past couple of years Google, the Internet, and the hard drive bottleneck issue came together to result in a handful of products. Because hard drive space was always the limiting factor people were always conscious of that. Hard drives were not cheap once upon a time. As a result of that, I assume companies invested a ton of R&D into creating cheap hard drives. Now desktops come standard with 100 gigs like its no problem. Nevertheless that mindset is ingrained in us. If you are a pack rat like me you cringe at the idea of having to delete pictures, papers, presentations, music, email, etc because you have to make room on your hard drive. Last November when I clicked the wrong thing in Outlook and virtually a lifetime supply of my email was deleted, I thought I was going to cry.

Google came along with GMail with three differentiating features. First it had by far and away the best user interface. Second, it was web-based so you could access email from anywhere without having to download it. Third, and what hooked us because of the mindset was the promise of 1 GB of hard drive space which within months became 2 GB.

By this time hard drives were already a relatively cheap commodity but I think that because of that mindset we were trained to jump at the chance to live as an uninhibited email pack rat. So what does Google do? They roll out web-based products (email, calendar, spreadsheets, Writely is still to come) that promise you virtually unlimited hard drive space, access from anywhere, and a friendly user interface in exchange for selling advertising around the periphery. Their bet is the cost of the physical servers that store the data will be less than the revenue they bring in from selling digital advertising.

This is exactly why I think Google will beat Microsoft. Microsoft was king of desktop based software. Google is the king of web based software. What direction do you think we are heading?



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