Simply Brilliant: Google Moves to Own the Desktop

googlelabsGoogle has quietly announced that it has acquired Writely, a tool that simply allows users to use HTML as the standard for all document preparation (without having to learn HTML), and to share, collaborate and publish such documents to whomever they wish. In doing so, they have signaled that they understand the need to simplify desktop management the way they have simplified search, by burying all the complexity of document management and document transmission beneath a very simple meta-application. This is precisely what I have repeatedly called for to increase productivity of knowledge workers, encourage massively more sharing of important information, enable real-time collaboration and, most important, get the bulk of the 80% of the population still on the far side of the digital divide online and onside.

What this means is that computer users will really need only one application, instead of the myriad they have now. Writely, or whatever Google renames it when they enhance it, will not only be the only open app on their desktop, it will become their desktop. Whatever they need to do — create, change or share a document (any document), send a document/message (the two terms will become indistinguishable) to someone, search for a document, or subscribe to or publish or blog a document — will be done within this one application, simply and intuitively. If someone you work with or communicate with still uses overengineered tools like Word, or has migrated to OpenOffice, you don’t need to know or care — the tool will automatically strip out the Microsoft gunk, convert the document to a clean, ubiquitous, HTML format, and allow you to change it or work with it as if you had prepared it yourself. Making photos, charts, mindmaps or other inserts for the document will ideally be handled by plug-ins — if you and your collaborators use these tools you can plug them in, and readers who don’t have the plug-ins will simply see them as ‘pictures’ that they can’t change. E-mailing, document sharing and publishing (“read-only document sharing”) will become synonymous concepts. You’ll never have to ‘save’ or back up a document again — it will all be done offsite for you automatically. If you think I’m reading too much into this, just read the Writely FAQ. Simply brilliant.

The next great challenge for Google will be to simply the challenge of finding people (know-who) the way they have already simplified the challenge of finding information (know-what) and finding places (know-where). That means whether you’re looking for an expert, a supplier, a business partner, a spouse, the Wisdom of Crowds, or a soul-mate, Google will get you there in one click. I have no doubt they are up to thischallenge.

On the topic of Google, try out Google Web Comments and get an idea of what bloggers are saying about every page you visit (Firefox trackback plug-in).

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9 Responses to Simply Brilliant: Google Moves to Own the Desktop

  1. Jon Husband says:

    agreed .. what you’ve described is part of what we have been trying to get at with Q …but I know you have looked at what we are doing and don’t find it overly interesting .. and that’s ok ;-)

  2. big dog says:

    I don’t understand how the a word formatting tool can become a desktop. Sure we read, write and edit several different documents a day, but there are far more things we do than on a computer, that requires a desktop for all of it.

  3. robert says:

    I think you’re blinding yourself. Trusting Google this much is putting all your eggs in one basket. I may be a newly-coined ‘privacy geek’ but I am not going to allow Google that much knowledge about me, because as we’ve seen in China (and more and more in the US) they’re not (and never can be) above the control of governement, who we are all skeptical of.

  4. robert says:

    Oh yeah, and I’m not always online, so local copies of things are my security blanket.

  5. Martin-Eric says:

    Since when is handing a single player total control of everything, especially of personal data, supposed to be a good thing?

  6. etbnc says:

    It seems to me that we could synthesize a bigger picture from all this. Google/Writely offers a particular package of features in a particular way, a “value proposition”, as we say in the biz.It seems to me that Dave’s enthusiasm is based on a forecast of what Google will offer later. That may be a somewhat different value proposition later.Some of us try to map those two value propositions to our own computing habits,and we find the paradigm(s) may or may not fit us.So I wonder: In what circumstances, and for which audiences, do these value propositions meet needs? Could the current value propositions be adjusted to encompass a broader range of future needs? In particular, is centralized storage a necessary foundation of Google/Writely’s value proposition?p.s. For the curious, this comment was composed with TSW Webcoder because it offers the simplest way forme to wrap my comment text with paragraph tags but store the original on my own machine.

  7. Sams says:

    Great post Dave. Guy over at mip’s scan had an interesting ( perspective that has a similar line of thinking. My question in, Microsoft has Windows to tie everything together where Google seems to have applications that are loosely held together.

  8. Dave Pollard says:

    Jon: Qumana is interesting, just not simple and intuitive enough. Big Dog: Everything we do, I think, (other than games, perhaps) involves manipulation of ‘documents’ in the broader sense of that term. I appreciate the concern that one company could dominate the desktop (and control over our data) this much, but I can see an Open Space alternative evolving pretty quickly if Google started to act like Microsoft.

  9. google Inc. said it is making it easier to add hundreds of miniature programs to independent Web sites, in a move that brings handy features to users instead of making users rely on the Web search leader has jumped ahead of rivals — such as Apple Computer Inc., Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp. — who offer mini-applets or “gadgets” when the user has installed special software on individual computer desktops. google Gadgets, which have previously been available for users to add to a Web user’s personalised google homepage or their own computers via google Desktop software, are now available for Web page owners to add to their own sites.

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