I recently watched the Triumph of the Nerds (again) and was struck by the role Intel played in the development of the PC market. Intel developed microprocessors and dominated the market but they were not the ones that developed the PC, arguably the most important device ever to utilize their chips. Intel built a platform (the x86 microprocessor) that enabled Apple and IBM to basically invent the PC market (sorry Ed Roberts). Of course Intel didn’t do too bad either. Until AMD came along they were the dominate chip maker, so much so that AMD basically copied their x86 architecture and made Intel compatible microprocessors.
So what does all this have to do with Google? Well, as a user of Google services such as gmail, reader and search I think it is easy to mislabel Google as a services company. While it is true that many of their services do compete directly with Microsoft or Yahoo, Google is more than just a collection of services. Take a look at their ingenious server rack design or their data center in a box and you can see their vision of platform. Google’s very own microprocessors if you will. Google has built a huge platform, a Google OS, on top of which they run search and many other services.
Just as Intel has influenced the PC industry with their innovative chip designs and allowed for the explosive potential of the desktop computer, so too I believe will Google’s innovative interconnected processing platform have a huge impact on the future of computing for decades to come. I think we have yet to see the Apples and IBMs emerge that will take advantage of the Google platform in the same way the PC did Intel processors but with the introduction of Google Wave as an open standard, I think it is only a matter of time until we do.
And what of Microsoft in all this? They are going to be late to the party as usual.