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The future of Google and Microsoft December 8, 2006

Posted by Al in : computers,future,interesting , trackback

This is an interesting article which looks at how the future could shape both Google and Microsoft’s policies. It’s good to see an author taking Microsoft seriously, rather than just proclaiming them dead, and suggesting that they have the technology, and the ability, to stay as the main runner in the upcoming battle between application and web. I was really interested to see the size of current, feature rich web pages and how these stack up against applications just accessing data. I agree that web based/thin client is probably not the best way forward – at least not until easily available bandwidth increases tenfold, or people stop downloading using torrents. AJAX will make a difference, however you still have to get the JavaScript onto the browser in the initial instance, and then unload and reload this as people come and go. If you regularly close and re-open AJAX pages, and your browser frees up the space each time, then you are effectively downloading and installing a small application every time – if this stayed on your PC, in the way a standard application would, then you just need to download the data, which means a lot less bandwidth used.

I also agree that Microsoft will need to ditch their monolithic approach to Windows and look for a lighter, more flexible version. One advantage that Linux has over Windows is that you can get away with installing the kernel, some basic device drivers and you have a working system. You can’t really do much with it but it’s there and running – add Apache and you have a web server, add MySQL and you have a database server, add Xfree and a desktop environment and you have something resembling Windows, but you don’t need to expand the OS if you don’t want to. With Windows you get the bells and whistles, you get Minesweeper and FreeCell, you get email clients and browser, you get hundreds of legacy applications that hardly anyone ever uses and you don’t get the choice whether you want these or not. Now I really like Windows, and I believe if you use it correctly and take reasonable precautions then it will do everything you want/need it to do better than just about any OS out there. Yes, Mac OS-X is pretty, and stable, but it crashes too and is sometimes too overly ornate – and it just doesn’t have the user base to have every piece of software that you want or need (although this is slowly changing). Linux is also wonderful but has this terrible issue of too many distributions, not enough standardisation – an app which works fine on one particular distro may fail completely on another, or even worse prompt you to upgrade a dependant library, which then breaks another application, which then needs updating requiring further library updates which then break more applications, and so on. I have been caught in this loop so many times I am now very wary of updating any Linux system and once I have an installation working I try not to update anything.

So the future looks to bring huge web based applications – which will certainly eat into your, and your neighbours’ bandwidth – and a new lighter version of Windows. It is entirely possible that in just a few years Google and Microsoft will have reversed their positions entirely – with Microsoft being the lightweight, winning the mobile and thin client battle – whilst Google becomes a heavyweight web-app provider. Both formats should allow the competitors to be easily used on all varieties of platforms and the final verdict may come down to whether the user is charged for data transfer or whether this becomes freely abundant. If ISPs, whether mobile, home or business, start charging for the amount of data users transfer then Microsoft’s approach will win. If data essentially becomes free as infrastructure improves and other applications, such as VOIP and IPTV, essentially pay for your bandwidth then Google will win. Either way these two are now so far ahead in their respective markets that no-one else can touch them, and they are also bound to clash sooner rather then later. It will be interesting.

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