So, the pattern with Google projects seems to go like this: release something mediocre and not so interesting, and over time, it gets a lot better.
Case in point: Google Video. At first, I saw no utility in this disorganized beast that only supplied video within the confines of a web browser. Ah, but the times they have been a changin’! Now you can buy videos from Google video, and unless the content provider has DRM, you can download the Google video in a file, and watch it without a stinking web browser. It is my fervent hope that before long, I’ll be able to download the shows I like to watch for about $2/hour, and I won’t have to deal with the gorge-your-brain-on-crap-all-you-can-eat buffet of mediocrity that is Cable.
Well, we’ll see if things go that way. But I think the TV industry is ready to learn from the opportunities missed by the music industry. And I think that while Apple Video store has an early lead in this territory, the Google Video store shows more promise, as it is in the business of making video available to the widest audience possible, where Apple is in their 1980s business of giving people an incentive to buy their proprietary hardware.
But what really gets me excited is Google Updater. What’s this? Well, they aren’t touting Updater, they’re touting Google Pack, which is a software bundle that Google thinks you should download. The pack is mediocre–Norton Antivirus? Norton is the suck! The Pack software litters up your desktop with icons . . . grr! And since Google is making your decisions for you, Google decides that you need Firefox with Google Toolbar. Okay . . .
So, Pack is mediocre, but Google Updater . . . now this is what excites me! It is a tool to update new versions of software. Nothing so magical about that–we have been automating software update deployment in the Unix world for years now! The cool thing is that Google is releasing a tool to do this on Windows. I hope they’ll release an API, as this would be very useful for IT folks. I think this will ultimately come to pass . . . much as Google Video ultimately let you download and buy video.
But why I really want Google Updater to be unleashed as a generally useful tool, is because this sort of framework for tracking and updating installed software really ought to be a part of the OS–it is in Unix land–but Microsoft has . . . well, let us say that they have not chosen to innovate in this direction . . . and Microsoft is ever so jealous of Google, with Ballmer throwing chairs around. If Google gets into the business of improving Microsoft’s core product, man, that’s gotta scare a few in Redmond.
And nothing proves that you’re doing no evil more than sticking it to the man.