How many more apps would it take before you really don't need anything but a browser and Google?
We already have Gmail, and Google Groups, and of course there's your customized Google home page,Google Blogger, and all the other stuff listed at Google Services Page. No word processor or spreadsheet, but if they did add that, and awful lot of people wouldn't need any more. Add a RDP client, ssh and telnet, and they'd have just about everyone covered. Well, everyone but those of us who want to write programs or want a command line.. but those things wouldn't be hard to offer.
Update: Ten years later and Google does have a spreadsheet, a word processor and more.
There's no doubt Google could do all that. Poor Microsoft, assaulted by Linux and OS X already: if Google brought these capabilities to the world, Ballmer would need lots more chairs.
What's scary about this is how much raw information Google has. By the very fact that so many sites use Adsense, they could track our surfing history quite accurately, with only a few gaps from the non-Adsense sites. They could know when you interrupt your browsing to send an email, or to get directions. This information is available now for a very large population of people and the potential grows with each application they add. Microsoft could gather similar data, but they'd have to do it deliberately, which would raise the ire of just about everyone. Google has the ability built in to the tools we already willingly use.
Oh well, it's "Do no evil". The Google founders are nice guys. Close mouthed, but they are like us, not like greedy Bill and the Gang. They wouldn't do anything shady with all of this knowledge..
Even if that is true, and even if they have all the safeguards possible in place to protect against their employees from misusing this wealth of data, someday some other hands will take the reins of Google. Who can say what moral inhibitions will stay their hands from dipping into the cookie jar? Who can say what the future will bring?
I don't say this lightly at all: while it may be too early to worry about it now, Google may someday need to be regulated in the same way we regulate public utilities. I don't think I'm being excessively paranoid about this, but would like to hear other's views.
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More Articles by Tony Lawrence © 2009-11-07 Tony Lawrence
Everyone knows that debugging is twice as hard as writing a program in the first place. So if you're as clever as you can be when you write it, how will you ever debug it? (Brian Kernighan)