Fast-forward 9 years, and how times have changed. With the imminent release of the GDrive I get the feeling that things will start to look very different. Especially for those people like me who already use a lot of Google’s other products such as Gmail, Docs, Desktop, Maps, etc. The launch of the GDrive will be turning point I believe in how we use computers, and what we perceive them to be. This one “application” will not change the world on its own, but it is the corner stone of Google’s strategy moving forward. It is the one thing that will tie all its products together, giving Google some truly huge leverage in the way we use computers.
If you read a lot of blogs and have been keeping up with the chatter across your RSS feeds, then you will no doubt be sensing the same thing that I am – the world as we know it is changing. I am not talking about the new Obama Administration, or the economic crisis. I am talking about the fundamental way that we humans are using computers and interfacing with technology. The GDrive, Android, net-books, iPhones, and cloud computing all points towards a seismic shift in the way we work and play online.
I remember discovering Google for the first time. It was early 2000. I was working as a producer at a web agency. I saw the Google homepage over the shoulder of a designer I was working with. She was very keen to show me the simplicity and clean design of the search engine. At the time the trend was for search engines to become portals and clutter their interface with content and “traditional” online advertising. From that day I gave up on AltaVista, Yahoo, and MSN and made the switch.
Combining GDrive with Gmail, Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Picassa, & Google Desktop you basically have a personalised operating system with all your content that you can take with you anywhere. Mac or PC – it doesn’t matter anymore. You just need a machine connected to the internet that can run a browser (make that Chrome).
It is 90% here already. For instance, I am writing this very post in GoogleDocs (using Chrome) and saving it in “The cloud” already. For me, this makes sense as I want to have access to my work whenever I need it. Either at “real” work, at home, or on the road using my iphone, or at an internet cafe. A couple of years ago I did this but was using flash drives, buring CDs, and it was generally a hassle. Not to mention that I was using MS Office which I didn’t have installed on my home PC so I wasted time converting files to RTF format and generally not having much fun.
So even before the GDrive is released, I have an online “cloud” where my Gmail, and Documents are stored. However with GDrive I will soon have a place for applications. Not the clunky shrink-wrapped type, or even the ones you download and install, but web apps running on (Google App Engine) that will be portable, instantly accessible, that I can take anywhere and access anywhere, on any computer (or web-device), and all the content I own and create instantly accessible too.
I won’t need MS Office, I wont need a flash drive, or CD Burner, I won’t need to worry about transferring files to other people or FTP-ing files to colleagues. Everything will be accessible to me or anyone else I share it with, instantly.
The way I use computers has already changed. Once the big scary corporate world starts to switch to this new world order on mass (which is inevitable in my opinion), then things will be very different. The days of buying a new computer pre-loaded with big hard-drives, and heaps of software you will never use will be over. Maybe Google Desktop will become a simplified operating system that could replace windows altogether. It will have a minimal footprint allowing it to be installed on very low-spec machines, and will control your internet connection, and run a Google Chrome browser. As long as the GDrive does not cost too much to store my 100GB of music then I will be happy.
So where does this leave Microsoft? Only time will tell. They are working hard to play catch-ups. The good thing is that this is a threat to the MS empire that can only be overcome by innovation. At that means interesting more products, and new ways of doing things. So its good times ahead.