MonkCast #3: Will the day come when 'no IT pro ever gets fired for buying Google?'

MonkCast #3: Will the day come when 'no IT pro ever gets fired for buying Google?'

Summary: In the 70's and 80's, one of the most famous cliche's for IT professionals was "No one ever got fired for buying IBM." Eventually, the same could be said for Microsoft.

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In the 70's and 80's, one of the most famous cliche's for IT professionals was "No one ever got fired for buying IBM." Eventually, the same could be said for Microsoft. Two days ago however, given how pretty much none of Google's applications could work unless Internet connectivity was functioning (something that isn't always a given), buying Google instead of Microsoft (or IBM) was clearly a risky move if you wanted to keep your job. Now however, as of Wednesday's Google Gears announcement, it appears as though some of that risk is on course to be mitigated.

But enough to cause businesses and enterprises to reconsider their IT strategies?

That was the subject of today's MonkCast with Redmonk's James Governor and his co-founder/partner Stephen O'Grady. O'Grady's perspective is particularly relevant given his expertise in open source (Google released the technology under what he refers to as a "very permissive" BSD open source license).

Google Gears is a technology that developers of Web-based applications (eg: a Web mail app like Yahoo Mail, or something like Salesforce.com) can use to make sure that Web applications and the data they need access to remain accessible, even when no connection to a network is available. Normally, loss or absence of network connectivity will cause Web-based apps to fail. Given its developer orientation, Google Gears is not the sort of thing that end-users can simply plug into their existing Web apps. Since the developers of those apps are the ones who must bake the functionality into their wares, it may be a while before a significant base of existing Web apps is enabled for such offline access.

Even though Google has been working on the technology for a while, so far, Gears can only be found in one of Google's Web-based apps: Goolge Reader (Google's browser-based RSS reader). It may take some time before other Google applications such as Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets are enabled with the tech. Tactically, O'Grady points out in the podcast, Gears won't make of a difference. But strategically, we all agreed that Microsoft grip on the desktop applications market may one day be loosened if it doesn't respond in kind. O'Grady also points out that if there's one guy who knows how to answer Google's threat, Microsoft is fortunate enough to have him on its payroll: Ray Ozzie. Google Gears is as much about synchronization as it is about working offline (the two go hand in hand) and going back to his days with Lotus, Ozzie is the king of synch, bar none.

Going back to the discussion of how far Web apps (or Google Apps) must go before "IT pros won't get fired for buying them," I zeroed in a four criteria that, when taken in concert togther, could be enough to merit the sort of attention that would be needed before businesses and enterprises might be willing to switch away from their existing desktop solutions (Microsoft or otherwise). They are:

  • The right functionality
  • The right total cost of ownership (including ease of deployment)
  • The right reliability
  • And a single throat to choke if something goes wrong

The success of Salesforce.com is actually proof that enterprises are ready to endure some of the shortcomings of going with Web apps (namely, the offline problem). Google's applications (and those of other Web app providers) may not be as the mature apps that have been in the market for more than two decades, but it's not a function of if (if the products have the same rich functionality). It's a question of when. With Google Gears in place, reliability could finally meet functionality. Where the two are offered at dramatically different economics than anything they compete with and there's a single phone number to dial if there's a problem, CFOs can't not force their IT counterparts to take a closer and harder look.

Topics: Browser, Google, Microsoft

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3 comments
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  • Once Google Gears is readily available for customers, uptake will be rapid

    The decreased bandwidth, better performance, better reliability, and off-line functionality, together with the fact, that it will not require that many changes in the applications, mean the uptake will be very rapid once it is widely available and proven.

    Heck, web application providers will be falling all over themselves to be the first to have it all working, even before it is widely available.

    Even things like Gmail are irritating right now when the connection is a little flaky, the network is a little saturated at peak hours, etc. This addition has the ability to take that all away, AND make it available off-line. Really a no brainer.
    DonnieBoy
  • I wouldn't be surprised by wide adoption

    There is always interest in non-Microsoft technologies. Interest driven by the cost of licensing and the sheer overhead it takes to keep Windows working properly in a connected environment. It used to be little more than idle curiosity, perhaps to create a dog and pony show for the MSFT rep.

    Not anymore. It's more than passing interest these days. It's spending time and money to evaluate the alternatives. User testing, conversion estimates, the stuff that costs money.

    I think we're on the verge of seeing an explosion in the adoption of disruptive technology and Google is one of the leaders. Exciting times in IT.
    Chad_z
    • "Disruptive technology": What a Joke

      That term has been proven so bugys, it's a wonder people still use it

      (hint: ALL technology or advancement is "disruptive". This was a term coined by some college professor. It was a joke then, it still is now)

      [i]sheer overhead it takes to keep Windows working properly in a connected environment[/i]

      There's no "sheer overhead" needed to keep Windows working, that's the ABMer in you talking.

      [i]I think we're on the verge of seeing an explosion in the adoption of disruptive technology and Google is one of the leaders. Exciting times in IT[/i]

      I'm sure it is to those who like the Google dog and pony show
      John Zern