The first thing is this item, which purports to reveal Google's "wireless plans". According to the Wall Street Journal:
Within the next two weeks, Google is expected to announce advanced software and services that would allow handset makers to bring Google-powered phones to market by the middle of next year, people familiar with the situation say. In recent months Google has approached several U.S. and foreign handset manufacturers about the idea of building phones tailored to Google software, with Taiwan's HTC Corp. and South Korea's LG Electronics Inc. mentioned in the industry as potential contenders. Google is also seeking partnerships with wireless operators. In the U.S., it has the most traction with Deutsche Telekom AG's T-Mobile USA, while in Europe it is pursuing relationships with France Télécom's Orange SA and Hutchison Whampoa Ltd.'s 3 U.K., people familiar with the matter say. A Google spokeswoman declined to comment.
The Google-powered phones are expected to wrap together several Google applications -- among them, its search engine, Google Maps, YouTube and Gmail email -- that have already made their way onto some mobile devices. The most radical element of the plan, though, is Google's push to make the phones' software "open" right down to the operating system, the layer that controls applications and interacts with the hardware. That means independent software developers would get access to the tools they need to build additional phone features.
Developers could, for instance, more easily create services that take advantage of users' Global Positioning System location, contact lists and Web-browsing habits. They also would be able to interact with Google Maps and other Google applications. The idea is that a range of new social networking, mapping and other services would emerge, just as they have on the open, mostly unfettered Web. Google, meanwhile, could gather user data to show targeted ads to cellphone users.
Google helped push through controversial rules for a coming spectrum auction at the Federal Communications Commission that would result in a new cellular network open to all devices and software applications, even those not favored by an operator. Google has said it will probably bid for the frequencies.
For now, the company knows it has no choice but to work with operators to make its open platform successful. D.P. Venkatesh, CEO of mPortal Inc., which makes software for wireless operators, puts it this way: "There are a few things carriers control that will always keep them in charge at the end of the day."
But broader (and deeper) thoughts come from Robert Cringley and Nicholas Carr. In his recent article, Cringley writes:
Here is what's significant about Google putting code into MySQL: they haven't done it before. Google has been a MySQL user from almost the very beginning, customizing the database in myriad ways to support Google's widely dispersed architecture with hundreds of thousands of servers. Google has felt no need previously to contribute code to MySQL. So what changed? While Google has long been able to mess with the MySQL code in ITS machines, it hasn't been able to mess with the code in YOUR machine and now it wants to do exactly that. The reason it will take so long to roll out MySQL 6.1 is that Google will only deliver its MySQL extensions for Linux, leaving MySQL AB the job of porting that code to the 15 other operating systems they support. That's what will take until early 2009.
Then what? I think the best clue comes from the agreement Google recently signed with IBM to co-promote cloud computing in universities.
Cloud computing is, of course, the ability to spread an application across one or many networked CPUs. You can think of it as renting computer power or having the ability to infinitely scale a local application without buying new hardware. Cloud computing can be anything from putting your entire business on other people's computers to running a huge Photoshop job from the lobby computer at Embassy Suites before jumping on the shuttle bus to Disney World with your kids. For all its promise, though, cloud computing has been pretty much a commercial failure so far.
But Google wants us to embrace not just cloud computing but Google's version of cloud computing, the hooks for which will be in every modern operating system by mid-2009, spread not by Google but by a trusted open source vendor, MySQL AB.
Mid-2009 will also see the culmination of Google's huge server build-out. The company is building data centers large and small around the world and populating them with what will ultimately be millions of generic servers. THAT's when things will get really interesting. Imagine a much more user-friendly version of Amazon's EC2 and S3 services, only spread across 10 or more times as many machines. And as with all its services, Google will offer free versions at the bottom for consumers and paid, but still cost-effective versions nearer the top for businesses and education.
If you are completely OK with this and are looking forward to this environment -- and there is much to look forward to -- you might read and consider Nicholas Carr's allegory (that is in the spirit of Halloween), which is difficult to summarize here.