The LA Times is reporting that Google is planning to put out cheap PC’s that “run on an operating system created by Google” (most likely some Linux variant). Analysts are calling them “Google Cubes,” a small hardware box that sells for a couple of hundred bucks. They’re apparently in talks with Wal-Mart to sell such a device. The rest of the article lays out a whole slew of other rumors. I have no idea how credible it is and I haven’t seen this news anywhere else (not on tech.meme for example).
The theory behind a “Google PC” has been around for awhile (along with the theory behind a “Google Browser”). It’s all kind of exciting and kind of scary at the same time. I’m not sure what it will mean for developers in terms of what the platform is and how we’ll have to conform to play in this “arena” that Google would be setting up.
Wearing the hat of an end-user, the prospects are even more frightenting. Google may well be targeting an audience that the tech community often ignores and Microsoft has enjoyed catering to: the less-than-savvy PC user. This user equates the Internet with “AOL” and often can’t distinguish between malicious software and friendly software. They’re your typical casual web user. At the risk of sounding paternalistic, I can’t help but think about the risks of one entity not only controlling the device or platform that they use to access the Web, but the content that is delivered as well. Controlling both ends of that experience is a hell of a lot of power to put in one place. It isn’t only about privacy and security. It’s about the free flow of information.
In other words, is the Web (capital “W”) – as this decentralized network of information sources that is woven together today – still a web (small “w”) if you’ve got this single monolithic conduit “managing” the information that is delivered out to a population of users. As the search experience continues to evolve as the dominant method of information retrieval, Google morphs from a mere search engine to “provider of all information.” Once that happens, the capital-W Web isn’t a web anymore. It’s all eminating from one place.
There’s another blog post in here somewhere about the commoditziation of data and how Google can become the Wal-Mart of information. But I’ll spare you the conspiracy theories. For now, a Google PC is frightening enough.