History shaped Google's Trojan Horse
Unravelling the Chrome masterplan... with Windows 2.03
Analysis When people buy software - buy it in seriously large amounts - it isn't just today's binary they're choosing. They're buying what they think is a bit of the future - they're buying a piece of risk insurance. This explains why very mature and well-proven systems often lose out to the Newest Kid on the Block. It also explains the enduring effectiveness of FUD and Vapourware.
And it's not just software. From TP monitors, to minicomputers, to Novell Netware, recent history is full of examples of perfectly splendid systems being thrown out and replaced with something that doesn't live up to the billing - and perhaps never will. Which sounds wacky, but that choice is being made on the rational calculation that the software or hardware of choice today won't be made or supported, or the standards that bind the parts of the system together will become obsolete. (Which leads to the same thing.)
Sometimes a brave company bucks the trend. Most famously Microsoft refused to "eat its own dog food", and stood firm against the move to client/server computing running PC or Unix-based databases like Microsoft SQL Server, instead insisting that its mission-critical accounts department ran on, er, an IBM AS/400 mini.
But by and large, the strategy works very well for companies that trumpet a "paradigm shift", or "new era in computing", and convince people that they own a secret part of the future - one that no one else can yet see. It worked for Microsoft, and Google hopes it will work for it, too. The Chrome browser today is little more than a piece of demoware, but it's not just about "today", is it?
Before we see what Google is hoping to achieve with Chrome, let's take a look at a precedent from history that I find quite spooky. Old-timers may excuse this brief wallow in nostalgia.
In the 1980s, PC business software was dominated by three names. Ashton Tate, Lotus and the WordPerfect Corp. The former two produced dBase III and Lotus 1-2-3, which were practically mandatory. Each product had what your modern, New Age marketing-droid would call an "ecosystem" around it - the value of the choice was as much in third-party add-ons and libraries of macros and scripts, as in what came out of the box. Developers skilled in these black arts were plentiful too.
For their part, Ashton Tate and Lotus had grown fat and lazy from astronomical growth, and had been slow in updating the software. They had seen off competition from integrated suites, and looked formidable enough to keep superior rivals from gaining much market share. And they were very expensive - dBase IV retailed for $795 in 1990.
But buyers, who were in no rush to migrate, knew there were two events in the coming years that might force them to re-evaluate at some point. 32bit computing would eventually supplant the limited address space of DOS running on 286 or 8086 machines, and eventually - at some far off date in the future - graphical user interfaces would come to the PC.
Microsoft knew this too, but it had a few problems. Its own clunky GUI, Windows, offered no advantages to the business user. The giants of the DOS world wouldn't run very well inside Windows - if they ran at all. There was no unique killer application for Windows, either.
Worst of all, few people really believed that Microsoft owned that vital secret of the future, or knew something no else knew. Apart from DOS, Microsoft simply sold a few compilers, while its own applications rarely got to a medal position in the shoot-out comparison tables in the computer press. And that was about it.
As Software Magazine, reviewing Windows 2 in 1988, wrote -
"There are challengers, including Desqview, and entries from Hewlett-Packard, Xerox and IBM's own Presentation Manager."
In other words, if the PC went GUI, it would probably be thanks to one of the grown-ups. Apple had priced itself out of the business market and refused to license the software. However, what credibility Microsoft had rested entirely on hanging onto IBM's coat tails with its work on OS/2. And few people had any great enthusiasm for a future that returned control of the industry back to IBM.
So Microsoft bundled a Windows "runtime" with one of the few prestige applications that had been ported to Windows. Typically this might be Aldus Pagemaker, or Microsoft's own Excel spreadsheet, because there weren't really any other heavyweight Windows applications. The runtime was a limited version of Windows that started when PageMaker ran, and ended when you closed it.
Like Microsoft 20 years ago, Google wants to shift users to a new platform - its own - for which there is much hype but no great enthusiasm. Like similar migrations the new platform offers very few advantages - and plenty of disadvantages. Not only are great chunks of functionality missing, but even when you're supposed to be "online and always connected", you might not be.
There have been plenty of hiccups in the "cloud", recently. As Ted Dziuba wrote here recently, it's captivated the investors for several dubious reasons - one of which is that a "cloud" is ever so easy to draw on a White Board.
That's where the "runtime" comes in. Today, Chrome is simply a technology demonstration - and I can't see Firefox users with their carefully-cultivated selection of add-ons, or Opera users, making the jump any time soon. But Chrome is a Trojan Horse for bundling Google's Gears onto your PC - and in the hope that manufacturers look to Google services for new Eee-type lightweight PCs, perhaps running something like gOS, the Ubuntu-derivative.
Gears is simply designed to make Google's online services more attractive, and makes it looks like Google's is setting the standard: leading where everyone else follows. (That isn't entirely unfair.) And as a technology demonstration, Chrome succeeds.
One reason why Chrome might put Google over the top
I hate it, u hate it, why anyone puts up with it, I have no idea...
I'd rather use a browser based computer with google docs before I have to learn Vista and all it's quirks.
a Kernal, filesystem and a good browser will run 90% of the software that's coming down the pipe in the next 10 years. gOS might be just the ticket, with AIR or Chrome on top.
Cool, since I think web apps are hear to stay folks. Instant delivery of the latest version of the software makes web apps the way to go for most people.
"and you think windows is a buggy OS or harder to deploy than linux...geez you are in for a surprise when it comes to supporting it. and you should sysprep any pc your imaging or cloning if it is to go on An Active directory setup."
Linux to the desktop for the purpose of getting X working, and an RDesktop session out to their VMs requires *zero* maintenance. It's not a matter of "deploy." The machines boot a cut down version of Linux over the network, bring up a basic X Window and a few gubbins in the background like a clipboard, and present the user with an RDesktop interface to log into their VM.
*Poof* Linux thin clients that require zero maintenance, are completely disposable, and 100% interchangeable.
As to your "bash misconceptions on the head," well, maybe ask about things rather than make assumptions. If someone is so lazy as to baw about the pain of sysprepping a machine, what would ever make you think that thier version of "linux to the desktop" would be a "using linux to actually do anything beyond thin client?" Now this is an assumption on my part, however you seem to have a pretty low opinion of the intelligence or competance of people who don't share your views. For future reference: when a lazy sysadmin bitches about how much work something takes, his solution will tend to be something that requires LESS work, not more.
The only thing a sysadmin hates more than having to actually do work is having to do it twice because it wasn't done right the first time. Anyways, good luck with following the white papers to the letter.
Mine's the improvised coat made out of AOL CDs and duct tape, with the homemade wearable computer.
Ok lets bash a few misconceptions on the head.
you have got to be kidding right "Microsoft wasn't so brilliantly run, it just happened to be the survivor."
So your saying a company that controls the pc software market lions share, training , industry standards and drives how hardware manufacturers design their hardware, started of in a garage whooped the great IBM corporate monster in a licencing deal that will still be talked about 10000yrs.....was and is poorly run A company so big the most countries are scared of it never mind that they have wet dreams about Microsofts turnover!.
"In fact, in we are in the middle of a "Linux to the desktop" rollout "
and you think windows is a buggy OS or harder to deploy than linux...geez you are in for a surprise when it comes to supporting it. and you should sysprep any pc your imaging or cloning if it is to go on An Active directory setup.
it is ok nothing brillaint , same with gears..but it is just like all the other crap developers put out it is what they think the next big thing is , and as the internet has always proven it is never what they think it will be and always comes from indepent developers and is usually not designed for productivity or work rather content and recreation...MP3,facebook,myspace,skype,ebay,youtube of course the big boys like google snap them up but usually too late when the decline has already set in.
Oh, I understand the whole concept of "sysprepping a machine," and when needed to, I will. On many networks I manage, it's the only way to deal with these issues.
WSUS has absolutely no issues with machines ghosted or cloned without Sysprep, though I will be honest with you in that I have no idea how SMS interacts with machines in that situation.
My point was that hoops like sysprep are a pain in the ass. With VLKs I don't need to jump do that, I can simply clone or ghost as I require, and I make sure we keep within our allowed number of systems. (In fact, in we are in the middle of a "Linux to the desktop" rollout to reduce the number of licenses in use, as we are giving everyone an XP VM for whatever MS software they have to use. No sense in burning a license on the metal, too.)
I am sure that when working for Dell, and HP, and other large organizations, where you have the resources to waste manpower, things like sysprep aren’t a nuisance. But in the SME world, where a Sysadmin is Network Admin, Developper, Bench Tech, Project Manager, and a dozen other hats all at once…anything that reduces administrative overhead is dangerously attractive.
Now, I know that some geek somewhere is going to pop out of the woodwork and exclaim and proclaim why sysprepping or some other hoop is the single best way to do things, etc. etc. I'm not here to fight that battle. What I will say is that the ability to treat the software like a commodity, just like we do the hardware is vital when you can't afford to waste valuable (and expensive) admin time dealing with Microsoft's insecurity issues.
What makes Google’s bit so attractive is that it offers to remove that time wasting layer of bureaucracy. They take care of user portability by making everything run on their servers. If you can front a machine with an appropriate web browser, you are go.
To put it bluntly: every layer of effort between a ticket being raised for a repair (or a new deployment) and both the user being back online, and the offending hardware or software being put back into service costs companies money. Thus why I hate the Server 2008 ecosystem, and why Google’s growing online empire of doom looks so dangerously attractive.
For now, 2003 for me, until something better (read cheaper with the same or more functionality and ease of use and administration) comes along. Who's goign to win that one? Right now, I'm just not sure.
Freedom is slavery!
As a non-tech punter I love Chrome. It is fast, simple, efficient and clean. I have no issues with it whatsoever. Might I suggest the people who are having problems are the kind of people who stuff their computers full of third party shite and have five thousand browser extensions. No wonder they have problems.
Coming from Apple I appreciate being locked in and having little choice. It makes for an easier life. Hardware is consistent, softwares the same. It's fantastic.
I've only used widows for a few months and I must say it's a right pain in the arse. Virus protection, anti-spyware, firewalls coming out my ears. I can't be fucked with trying to keep up any longer. So I've given in. No more being anonymous, no more adblock, no-script, flash block, everything block-protect-defend.
From now on I'll use Google and they can have my history, cookies, web search. I don't care as long as I don't have to think about a hundred million things just to enjoy using my computer. I don't want to be a system administrator. I just want to edit my photos without having to be a certified ethical hacker. Is that too much too ask?