Google plans to make PCs history

Google plans to make PCs history
Industry critics warn of danger in giving internet leader more power

Google is to launch a service that would enable users to access their personal computer from any internet connection, according to industry reports. But campaigners warn that it would give the online behemoth unprecedented control over individuals’ personal data.

The Google Drive, or “GDrive”, could kill off the desktop computer, which relies on a powerful hard drive. Instead a user’s personal files and operating system could be stored on Google’s own servers and accessed via the internet.

The long-rumoured GDrive is expected to be launched this year, according to the technology news website TG Daily, which described it as “the most anticipated Google product so far”. It is seen as a paradigm shift away from Microsoft’s Windows operating system, which runs inside most of the world’s computers, in favour of “cloud computing”, where the processing and storage is done thousands of miles away in remote data centres.

This sounds creepy. I personally would not subscribe to such a service. Imagine, all of your personal data controlled by a corporation!

It’s already happening. And what the corporations don’t have the government has.

Perhaps I don’t understand the concept of the GDrive and why it would kill off the personal computer. Online data storage has been around for years. How is the GDrive any different?

And why would it necessarily kill off the PC? Its not like a hard drive is very expensive, and, as some have suggested there is some data (financial and medical) which persons are going to want to keep private. I think the demand for a personal hard drive will continue, if for no other reason than the times when the internet is unavailable, either due to lack of access or service interruption.

I thought that Google already controlled all of my personal information.

Question: If you’re not in the Google database, do you still exist?

(Hmmm, I need to go back and re-read the Isaac Asimov short story, The Last Question. That has even more disturbing implications. Obviously, he didn’t have Google in mind, but it fits.)

Personally I would be very interested in seeing how Google plays this out. I’ve used remote desktop systems like that before and they usually have fairly limited capabilities, and even those that substantially restrict user activity are not at all cheap.

Any system they could design that would really “make PC’s history” (i.e. one that offered users computing abilities comparable to those they would have on their own PC’s) would chew through processor power, disk space, and bandwidth in a way you wouldn’t believe. It would be EXPENSIVE. Really expensive. There’s no way they could make that money back with teeny ad revenues, like they do for Gmail. They’d need to charge a substantial subscription fee, which would probably make the price for using the service comparable to the price of buying a new PC every few years.

To give you an idea of these numbers, I’ll tell you about the service that I use. It gives you some disk space on their server and the ability to run some database and bookkeeping software on their machines. That’s it. Nearly all other user actions are restricted (and for a good reason). This service costs $30 per month, which is a bargain. I’ve looked into comparable services, and they typically cost twice as much. $30/month extended over four years (conservative estimate for the lifetime of a PC) amounts to $1440, easily enough to buy a decent, brand new PC every four years.

So even that highly restricted service costs about the same as buying a new PC. If Google intended to make this service any good, they would need to offer substantially more features than the service I use. Thus it would have to be substantially more expensive, excluding a lot of potential users right there. Plus, a system like this would only be viable for people with a very fast Internet connection. Europe and parts of Asia shouldn’t have any problem there, but many parts of America are still on dial-up or the slower versions of DSL, so they would have little interest in that product.

Yet Google’s ingenuity never ceases to amaze me. I’m excited to see if they can make this work.

I remember when the company I worked for, Digital Equipment Corp., back in 1982 announced the first desk top computer, the Rainbow-100. Founder and CEO, Ken Olsen was asked at the kick-off ceremony, if he thought this was the first step toward people having computers in their homes? Mr Olsen said, he didn’t think so, because no one would want a computer in their home. He was roundly laughed at and mocked when not longer after, when PC’s soon became the big item of the late 80’s and 90’s.

However, what Olsen meant by his statement, is what you’re seeing here in this article. People will have terminals in their homes, which link up to main frame computers, that a service provider operates.

So, as operating software and other programs demand stronger computers, instead of having to go out and upgrade your PC, your provider will upgrade his machine. Also, you’ll have access to your account, and disk storage, anywhere you are, including from your Ipods and Blackberries.

Too bad DEC sold out. It was a great place to work, and Mr Olsen would’ve loved being ahead of the curve, with main frame computer technology.


Tech writers making mountains out of anthills again. I don’t doubt that Google might launch a decentralized file storage service in the near future, but it is not going to kill the PC or anything like that. And for several good reasons:

*]Even if they try going back to the old dumb-terminal model like Jim suggested, that’s another appliance consumers have to buy and it’ll still cost enough to be a noticeable hit in the pocketbook for most people. The only realistic route for this service is to be a virtual hard disk over the net.
*]People will still go offline. And the GDrive would be about as useful as a cement-filled fishtank if someone digs through your phone line. It’s not as reliable has having a personal computer – and besides, plain old online storage already exists (I use my gmail account for that sometimes!).
*]Corporations and governments are going to be very unwilling to put sensitive information into such a service. It doesn’t matter what Google does to encrypt the stuff, institutional buy-in will be minimal.
*]By the same token, individuals are not going to want to rely 100% on the service’s security. Whether it’s your diary, your tax records, the Great American Novel you’re currently writing, or, most likely of all, your porn stash, there are a lot of things people are going to want to keep to themselves. And for that, they need their own computers.

The best way this GDrive could be a viable product is to integrate it with their other services – email and documents in particular. There isn’t a whole lot of room those leave uncovered, from what I know, but what gaps there are this sort of service could fill. Being able to flip between your email, a couple of spreadsheets, Google Code, a few newsgroups, and your appointment book without having to jump through the already-fairly-few links that would be required going through the internet – that’s where this might fit in. But a PC killer it is not. That’s just the tech media having a wet dream. When they get this hot and bothered about something, a pretty reliable rule is to dial it down several notches and expect something less.

Well, technically, you still need a PC (or some personal computing device) to access stuff online, even if it’s a small wireless server type equipment. First, I think the article is a bit misleading and misinformative (first it says you can access your PC from anywhere, then it says it will eliminate the need for PCs. Which one is it? :confused: ). Since it’s online storage, you really aren’t accessing your PC (there’s already technology to do that - Remote Desktop), but only an image of your PC (which can be stored anyway already - there’s Microsoft Virtual PC which essentially reads an operating system image. I use it at work.).

Secondly, people have been saying the Internet would replace operating systems for -]years/-] decades, but it hasn’t. What it has done is provide cross-platform independency (i.e., I write a file in notepad using an IBM computer with Windows XP and put it on the web. You are able to look at it using your Apple/Mac with OS 11 or whatever version it is, and you read it with whatever software the Mac uses to read text files.). There’s also online tools that mimic common software.

Third, putting an entire OS on a remote server and accessing it is just asking to be a resource hog (drive space, memory, bandwidth). Where I work, we use Remote Desktop, and this can lag even on our LAN (screen looks choppy). The connection to one’s online “computer” is also going to be only as fast as the person’s connection. To me, it seems a bit redundant if you already have a computer in the first place. It also begs the question - “What if I want to install something?”. I might have a CD or DVD, and either I seem some port adapter and docking station, or I need a PC!

Since the Internet was designed to be platform independent, I think there’s much more efficient ways of creating/storing/using data and using a remote server as an “operating system”. At best (or worse?), it’s one large disk image backup center.

If they really wanted to make something useful, then they could find a way to integerate the resources (storage, memory) of all computers currently connected online as one large (yet, very dynamic) operating system. For example, 10 people are online. One person wants to play a video game. The game will use memory resources from computers 1, 2, and 3, with mirror images kept on other computer. There’s already programs with a similar idea, such as having personal computers perform protine calculations, or SETI@Home). Granted, they would still need a much, much faster Internet backbone.

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