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Thursday, 12 June 2008 08:20

Bye bye desktop, $1B Web Cloud is new home for apps: Google

While the world watched in rapturous awe at the happenings that took place a few days ago at the Apple WWDC, earlier this month Google held its own developers conference for the first time. The Google I/O conference, held in San Francisco, had one clear message - forget the desktop, the "Cloud" is where it's at and the Web is the new platform for application development. It's already a $1 billion market and growing fast.

Google, the 800 pound gorilla of the Web development space, wants to make its own slice of Web infrastructure - the Google Cloud - more accessible to developers and encourage them to build and run applications in it, according to technology analyst group Ovum.

“In many ways Google I/O is the first, and to date, largest developer conference for the Internet. The attendance was impressive - over 3,000 developers were at San Francisco's Moscone Center to attend sessions covering a range of issues over two days," says Madan Sheina, Principal Analyst at Ovum.

With ever increasing numbers of applications being developed for the Web, traditional desktop software companies such as Microsoft, are either living in denial or racing to develop strategies to take their software online.

This itself has presented traditional software developers with a dilemma: do they continue to focus on developing for their traditional market (how can you ignore Microsoft) or they boldly go where they've never gone before - into the Cloud.

"Google firmly believes that the Web has won through as the future platform for application development," says Ovum's Sheina.

"The company is now looking to woo developers to the Google Cloud and at the same time make the Web a better place by adding more and more functions to it. To achieve this Google wants to make its Cloud more accessible, keep connectivity to that Cloud pervasive, and make the Cloud's primary client the Web browser more powerful.”

“In other words it wants to make Web browsers as, if not more, powerful and rich in functionality as its desktop sibling. That's easier said than done and means transforming Web browsers from just dumb information search and retrieval terminals to highly interactive application interfaces that deliver new levels of utility to end users,” continued Sheina.

Please read on to page 2

While the number of Cloud applications are growing faster than a snowball rolling down a steep hill, applications developers need to adjust to the new medium.

So what's Google doing to help?

"For starters it is inviting developers to mash-up Google services in their own applications," says Sheina.

"It's opening up a variety of Google APIs for content, search, authentication and so on that allow third-party developers to programmatically access Google services (Gmail, Docs, Maps, Search, Picasa, YouTube etc) from the Cloud in their own mash-up applications.

"These developers aren't just keen to build 'cool' Web applications for the sake of 'coolness'; they also have an eye on tapping into Google's billion-dollar online advertising revenue stream. Google likes to separate its Web development technologies from its advertising. But the two are inextricably linked.

"Google's monetization strategy is simple. Invest in advancement of the Web by allowing users to do more on the Internet. That makes the Web a much bigger market for Google to monetize services like search. For that reason we believe that Google sees a pile of money in its Web application development efforts downstream, even though for the time being it is focused on getting developers to build browser-based Web applications to thicken up its Cloud.”

So what's next from Google? Please read on to page 3

As Ovum's analyst explains:

"To showcase its client-Cloud connectivity, Google detailed several examples at the conference. The first was the integration of Google Gears (a browser add-on in the Adobe Flash mould that allows for richer browser experiences) to enhance search in MySpace email.”

“Gears works by persistently storing, synchronizing and manipulating data locally in the browser, effectively allowing online applications to function offline. Next it unveiled a new 'rent-a-Cloud' pricing for its App Engine software that allows you to build Web applications that run on Google's Cloud infrastructure that is based on CPU use per hour - a model that sounds very similar to's Web services.”

"Google also presented a new version of the Google Web Toolkit which allows developers to build rich Internet applications in Java; the hosting of new Ajax libraries that lets developers improve the performance of their Web applications using JavaScript tagging; and a strategy for transforming Web applications into mobile applications using a new SDK for its Android federated smartphone platform. The SDK basically provides WebKit views and allows mobile applications to be built using Web browser technology as the user interface.”

"Finally, Google also showcased interesting Web 2.0-like application development technologies for single sign-on for the Web (OpenID), universal authorization (OAuth) and a social network development 'standard' (Open Social). These technologies promise to connect Web pages, applications and service to the 'sticky' social Web.”

"These diverse tools and technologies might seem loosely unintegrated and targeted at different areas. In fact they're all cogs and wheels of a more meaningfully connected Web that hosts Google Web services powered by the Google App Engine. Importantly some of these Web services and applications aren't written just by Google, but by an entire market of independent developers."

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Stan Beer

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Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 35 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

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