Is Google really a threat? Part 1:The Browser

Lets start with Google Chrome, when word hit that Google was creating a browser it seemed as if everyone and their parents were downloading Chrome to give it a try. Market share for Chrome quickly jumped up to 1 or 2% in the days following the release, an impressive feat, but in weeks since has slowly fallen. Unlike most of the products which Google labels beta, Chrome is very much still a beta. There are still quite a few issues which remain unsolved with Chrome along with quite a few glaring issues. Even still, I have no doubt that there are Googlers working away at right this moment to fix these issues and improvements will be made. Getting back to the original question, is Google really a threat in the browser market? The short term answer, not really. Lets categorize people for a moment to see why. 
"Techies" were very likely to try out Chrome and I would assume they accounted for a significant proportion of that initial 1% as evidenced by many tech sites receiving  significantly higher percentages (ReadWriteWeb saw 7%, Silicon Valley Insider saw 6.6%). Unfortunately for Google, they did not release an add-on framework at the time of release and many geeks are so hooked on their Firefox plug-ins of choice that they couldn't imagine switching to Chrome permanently (AdBlockPlus and Firebug in my case). I'm sure there are many people typing away at these, but so far nothing. 
But techies are only a collective few, what about other people? People browsing at work whom are employed by large companies is a large contingent of people (and not mutually exclusive with techies), how is their Chrome usage? In short, not good. Upon its release Chrome had quite a nasty looking EULA which may people believed was akin to signing over a first born to Google. While not true, it was a firmly worded EULA which had a lot of people concerned which Google has since rectified. Even still, so many large businesses were concerned about that EULA and as a result told employees not to download Chrome until it had been reviewed. Considering how strict many companies are about using non-IE browsers, it will be difficult for Chrome to gain significantly large market shares in this slice of the world.  Finally, there is the general population.  "Google what?" is the most likely response you will hear when asking the general population what their opinion is on Google Chrome. As ubiquitous has the Google name has become, the reality is that to many people the internet is still that e with a halo on it on their desktop, it is just that simple. Simply consider the fact that last year over 30% market-share belonged to IE6, yes the same IE6 that came by default with Windows XP circa 2001. The same IE6 which is mired with security flaws and whose rendering abilities are the bane of most web developers existence. While that was last years numbers, many sources have seen IE6 holding fairly strong with a 25% market-share this year. If this is not evidence of the "Internet=Desktop e" theory then I don't know what is. 
So then, what does this all mean? It means the while Chrome has quite a few innovative features (process per tab to name one), it is still lacking some of the features to draw the techies over. Employees at large companies are unlikely to use Chrome since either their legal department hasn't given it the OK, and may never. For the general public Chrome is still what lined their favorite Ford Thunderbird back in high school. By Christmas time this year I can see Chrome getting to about 2-3% market-share without really breaking a sweat. Following that I think Google is going to have to make some big announcements to remind us all what Chrome is, and why I should switch over. So to answer the question, no, Chrome is not a threat. 

Is Google really a threat?

In the past month or so Google has been involved in the release of two very highly touted products in Google Chrome and Google Android being released on the TMobile G1. Both of the announcements have generated enormous buzz and having the Google name attached to both of these products have really fueled the fire. But with the release of these two products I ask, is Google really a threat?

Google Gaming?

Forbes recently made a wildly speculative article about whether or not Google should and will enter the game arena. I'm not sure if the Forbes folks have been watching too much of the crazy news with Keith Oberman, but Google, making games, what are you on? Lets get one thing straight, the only games that Google with be making will be the ones that would come with Android by default or the ones of gOS. Why on this green earth would Google decide to go after gaming? Yes, gaming is a booming market, and yes there is advertising revenue that can be generated from games, but lets be honest, Google making games is about as likely as Toyota making MP3 players. Now it has become clear that Google is willing to spend money developing technologies that help to feed their search (read: advertising) business. Google Docs is the perfect example of this, by having you store your documents in their cloud, they have the opportunity to take a look see and make there add recommendation just that much better. I assume the belief is that they would enter the game market by making games and not making actual consoles since the console market is only ready for the suicidal. So Google makes a game, and then they make some sort of advertise bar which displays in it (a la Net Zero), seems logical enough right? Wrong. Assuming they were to make an immersing game, and not just a pass the time waster (hi Freecell) ads are a terrible idea. Back in my hay day I used to play a few games, things like Counter-Strike, Command and Conquer, and the likes, and if there is one thing I learned from games like that is that once you are in games like that there is very little chance you are going to click an ad which escapes you from your full screen game, much less even look at them. Microsoft recently implemented ads in Xbox live, so when browsing around the demo section you will probably catch an add or two, but not if they are dumb enough to attempt to put ads inside of a game like Halo or Tiger Woods Golf.
The only real advertising I could really see happening in games is product placement like they do in TV shows where someone like Pepsi will pay to get some member of a TV show to take a sip of their soda on camera. Cant you just see Tiger taking a nice big swig of Pepsi after blasting a 350 yard drive down the 18th of St. Andrews?

Oversight of the century?

Its really unfortunate, I was walking into the bathroom of the lovely Chicago O'hare airport and I saw one of the greatest photo-ops I have seen in a while. There was a woman dressed in a very serious dark suit sitting on the floor with her laptop on her lap, funny but nothing special. Heres the kicker, shes halfway cramped in between a newspaper stand and a pole, likely one of the most uncomfortable sitting positions I have seen someone in such formal wear in. So why would a woman like this put her self in such an uncomfortable position? Simple, there was an outlet nearby and she was charging her laptop. Unfortunately she was packing up by the time I got out of the bathroom so I didnt get a good chance to snap a picture of it, but I think you get the idea. Now why the story about me using the restroom and people sitting uncomfortably? Because it points out one glaring defect of our nations airports, and many other sites (including universities) which lack power outlets. People, in case the pigeon didn't make it to your neck of the woods with the message, we are in the 21st century, the information age, remember those tube things?
In the past few years the amount of electronic equipment that the average traveler carries with them has gone up significantly (% increase from 0->1 is infinity). So when people are traveling in the airport between flights aside from eating, what are people looking to do? Thats right, charge their , whether its laptops, iPods, phones, people always need to charge something. No one wants to be on the flight where there battery dies halfway through because they were watching Californication in the airport before their flight. The only problem is that since most airports are fairly old, there is no way they could have accounted for the vast amount of electronic outlets that would be required by the present days business traveler (Come on, try to find somewhere to charge your blackberry, I dare you). So what are we left with? Airports which have very few outlets, none of which are marked, and often in very awkward places (I know we've all considered using the outlets which are under the check-in counter). The situation is so bad, that even companies have started to take advantage of the glaring oversight. In O'Hare airport Verizon has setup a counter which is simply 10 stools and divided little work areas each with two power outlets solely for the purpose of allowing people to charge their stuff and if they happen to get bored they can stare up at there big advertising board directly over it. Thanks Verizon, appreciate the consideration, but thats just the tip of the iceberg, and those stools are incredibly uncomfortable. I'm not electrician, but it seems to be that doing some wiring to get a whole bunch more outlets would be fairly trivial and would not take long at all. But theres a lot of airport, and a lot of gates to cover. So lets make it easy on you. How about just labeling the walls or posts where there are outlets so we don't have to hunt around the airport like a bunch of crack addicts looking for the next fix (crackberry anyone?).
Considering how little traveling I do compared to the very sharply dressed gentleman next to me who is also clamoring for an outlet it is clear that I am not the only one who has these thoughts? Considering the burlesque show that we have to put on going through airport security can we at least get some power outlets? I mean if thats not the oversight of the century, I don't know what is.

Why buy the cow

In case you haven’t heard, the excellent website Hulu will be premiering many primetime TV shows either on or before their on-air premier dates. In case you weren’t aware, Hulu is a very good online video site which has a good selection of TV shows and movies which can be streamed and is shown with minimal advertising. For a 30 minute TV show there are generally 3 commercials which are 15-30 seconds long. I was reading this article on Wired which brought up the interesting point, with Hulu airing the premier of Prison Break on the same day it will premier on TV, why have over a million people downloaded it (illegally) via torrent? This situation is not unique. On October 10th of 2007 Radiohead released their album “In Rainbows” only on their website. Fans were allowed to pay as much as they wanted (including $0, free) for the album, which was available by download. Well, no surprise when shortly thereafter the album appeared on torrent sites. Again, if it is available for free why would an estimated 2.3 million people download it (illegally) via torrent?

Note: while I would never encroach on either of these actions, I may know a few that do, and so it is their coalesced opinions and my own spin that I include here.

The answer is not made of up a few different sets of people.
First, there are the people that didn’t know about that availability, and therefore went to their main method of acquiring that content, torrent. The same way they have done for all the other episodes of Prison Break or Radiohead albums, fire up the tracker of choice and download away. These people cant be blamed, although publicized, the number of people who knew about them being available was still a very small set of all of those whom would otherwise be downloading. They might be on the front of the tech-section of every online news/blog site, but you have to read it to know.
Next, there are people who heard about it, but were too late. They had already downloaded the show/album before they heard of the promotion. At that point they could go back and watch it on Hulu or download it from the Radiohead site, but much of the allure is lost, although both sites have their revenue opportunities intact which I’m sure they are pleased about.
Finally, there are those people who did not agree with the terms under which they would get the media. Ads in the case of Hulu and a required email address and an ask for donations on the part of Radiohead. To be honest, I really don’t find either to bad at all. Ads on Hulu are significantly shorter then those on primetime TV, you generally only see one per break, and you have all the abilities of a DVR (pause, rewind, etc) without needing one. Radiohead simply asked for an email address (no spam to date) and ask for donations (which they made clear could be $0, no CC# required). What’s not to like? Some people just wont give in…what can I say?

As for these two occurrences, I think they are incredible. They demonstrate an embrace of technology by the two industries which have classically fought it off like Ugg boots. I just have two comments about these:
1. Hulu, why on earth do you not have an iPhone app out yet? Are you waiting for me to make it?
2. Radiohead, why not make the album available via torrent, you save on the hosting cost and make it more widely distributed? Seeing as 2/3 of the downloads came from torrent, why not focus on those people, and hitting them up for donations instead?

A Promise

It has become really clear to me that in terms of Vista advertising bloggers are just going to bash, bash, bash, and then bash again. Much the same way they treat the operating system itself. As opposed to posing responses every time a new commercial drops, my official stance is "see message below." Everything that was applicable before, is still applicable, so no reason to needlessly post more updates. With that, I promise no more blabbering about the new ad campaign, just see the post below and you will get my opinions.

The new Microsoft ad

Well, it’s out. And if there isn’t going to be enough gasoline in this fire I figure I might as well throw my two cents (worth of gasoline) in.

I’m not really sure what people were expecting this ad to people. Based on my very empirical study this ad was expected to be the hippest, coolest, most ultimate Vista rocks my world ad…featuring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld. In case you were disappointed by the distinct lack of heavy rock music (a la video game commercials) or some sort of play on the Apple ads, you clearly haven’t been paying attention. If you had read my previous article entitled “Don’t be surprised by Seinfeld”, you would have been much more in tune. Is it going to make you fall off of your chair laughing? No. Was it direct shot across the bow at Apple? No. Was it edgy/risky/crazy? No. It was Microsoft.

It was mildly entertaining, but only since it relies two of the most famous faces in the world (t-minus 10 years ago of course). The premise is a play on BillG’s well-known…thriftiness…. And has some shout-outs to those nerds who have been paying attention. In terms of Seinfeld, its roughly the Visa ads, except without Superman.

I think the real surprise of it all is the lack of heavy branding or slogans. Spanning the entire minute and thirty seconds of commercial the word Microsoft was mentioned once, in passing, by Seinfeld. Then there is the slogan “The future. Delicious.” Followed by the Windows logo. No Microsoft logo, no mentions of the word Windows, or dare I say…Vista.

I’m sure pundits are savagely pounding at their keyboards about this one, “$300 million for this!” or “that’s going to beat Apple?!” Stop it. Please. Just, stop it. First, I’m very sure that this is the first of many (random guess says 5) commercials to come out of this campaign. Second, like I have said you will not see direct shots at Apple. Why? By “competing” with Apple, Microsoft would be admitting that they are on their level. Believe what you will, Microsoft won’t be admitting that any time soon.