back to article Google flirts with online OS

It's only a matter of time before Google unveils a full-fledged online operating system. This week, Microsoft's biggest rival rolled out a new version of Docs & Spreadsheets - its online answer to Word and Excel - adding Windows-like folders, an improved search engine, and an all-around prettier interface. Previously, Docs & …


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  1. Steven Hewittt

    Anyone else know a thing called SharePoint?

    Look a lot more like WebDAV with AJAX extensions than an online OS to me.

    In fact, it's pretty much like a very small part of what SharePoint 2007 can offer, apart from the collaboration, customising, security and a dozen other features.

    MS may charge more for SharePoint than Windows Vista, but comparing the ability to create basic spreadsheets and text files in a WebDAV environment to an online Operating System is a little over the top - even for a Google fanboy.

    Of course the only problem with the whole Google Apps thing is that I'd rather backup my own stuff without trusting it to a 3rd party that has no SLA for my data and a bad reputation for end-user privacy.

    Also that I can create whatever files I like without Google logging down what ad's were displayed whilst editing my documents - thus automatically knowing what I have in my document without them even having to open it.

    Think i'll be sticking to either my Windows Vista and Office 2007 system or failing that my Fedora box with OpenOffice.

  2. Matt

    Forget Microsoft...

    And even forget google.

    When ISPs regularly loose days worth of e-mail, when numerous companies expose data to anyone online, why would anyone trust the primary storage of their data to an online service?

    Sure, users lose data all the time for a host of reasons (from stupidity to hardware failure), but that's life. You screw up, you learn to make backups. Ad what happens if/when google's income stream dries up and for once they're not ahead of the curve in changing their business model and they have to scale back, start charging or charge more. Where does that leave people?

    Its a bad idea for so many reasons. Regardless of if you use linux and openoffice or windows and ms office, at least the fate of your data is in your own hands.

  3. Adam Azarchs

    Bit of a stretch

    It's a bit of a stretch to say that adding the ability to organise documents into folders (something every email client on earth besides gmail can do) is tantamount to "flirting with online OS." I don't know if they still have it, but years ago Yahoo Briefcase let you store files online (organised in folders) and even offered a plugin to map a windows drive letter to the online service. It didn't work particularly well, but it's a good bit closer to "online OS" than this.

  4. Daniel

    3rd party search

    I wonder if I can use yahoo to search my folders instead of google...

  5. Phil Miesle

    OS != Filesystem

    Being on the bridge between "tagging" and "hierarchical filesystem" I can happily play in both worlds. But both of these are really metadata that organize information (documents) made visible and editable in applications.

    Google is making an attempt to make the "operating system" utterly irrelevant to end users where documents are concerned. The way the article reads, all an operating system really does for the end user is allow them to manage documents and view them in applications.

    Except of course it doesn't do *just* that. Do you print? Use audio/video devices? Connect to a network? Display things on monitors?

    So you see, until Google figures out a way to manage all my necessarily proximal hardware, their "operating system" will remain limited to documents and applications.

    Hardly a full-featured "operating system", now is it?

  6. Igor Mozolevsky

    Is it just I?..

    ... who thinks that allowing a third party to store you documents and spreadsheets with no guarantee for privacy is not such a good idea?..

  7. De Zeurkous

    RE: OS != Filesystem

    Don't forget that in UNIX space, there isn't any real difference between the operating system and the luser environment. The closest thing to such a split would be the BSD base system/ports collection one -- and even that is very shaky.

    Your point is stronger than you seem to think.

  8. Aslan

    Google is my OS of choice

    Google is far more trustworthy than my ISP and has far superior uptime. Google is free for life. Googles apps are fast when broadband is available. There's a number of things I can't do with Google Spreadsheets yet, but I'm sure they are coming.

    I know it's not an OS, but you may as well call it that because that is what it is doing in conjunction with the browser.

    To be free of the Microsoft tax at last and get work done on any computer will be wonderful.

  9. Joe Cincotta

    Some worthwhile Google reading regarding GDocs

    After one month with Google Apps

    First Impressions

    Pay attention to the bit about Docs. I think making a bold statement about the GoogleOS is a little bit premature, but when you consider what they are doing with Gears, there is certainly a theme emerging...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This so called google os...

    currently only runs in virtual machines called browsers. Actually, it looks more like a presentation module, also called a gui. The question is if they manage to make a kernel that supports the users' hardware, like in the form of a linux distribution, then could we start calling it an os or it still remains a service? Imho, for most users the difference between a distributed os and a network service is starting to blur.

  11. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    The drones are coming

    "Google is far more trustworthy than my ISP and has far superior uptime."

    Fat lot of good that does when you ISP is down. Tell you what, my PC has better uptime than Google, and I don't need my ISP to open my files. But hey, you're free to lock yourself in whatever scheme you want.

    "Google is free for life."

    You don't know that. Google is ad-based for now. Web advertising is going down the crapper, so one day Google just might decide that you have to pay to access your precious online storage.

    And whatever happens, you might end up regretting having entrusted all your personal files to some entity that can change its TOS on a whim, and hand over whatever data a given government wants.

    If a government wants data off my hard disk, they'll have to come and get it first. It's called privacy, and as soon as your data leaves your door, you end up saying goodbye to that notion.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No Google for me

    I might use their search engine but I'd never trust them with my data. Bottom line is that Google is another profiteer absolutely indistinguishable from any other. Google is neither free or for life. Google services are paid by people who advertise. Google apps will only exist at the largess or indulgence of Google or when they start loosing money. It's not even close to an OS, it's a collection of poor quality web apps. Microsoft isn't a tax as you're not legally obliged to pay it.

    But anyone that trusts their data to a profiteer like Google must be fucking mad.

  13. Richard Kay

    privacy ?

    "If a government wants data off my hard disk, they'll have to come and get it first. It's called privacy, and as soon as your data leaves your door, you end up saying goodbye to that notion."

    Of course in an ideal world your hard disk can't be infested with malware, and there won't be any zero day vulns on your OS of choice despite this having grown by a factor of 10 in size every few years, nor will there be any trapdoors known to the OS or hardware vendor and government let alone crooks willing to break the Computer Misuse Act. The building in which you do your computing is copper shielded and the mobile phone companies don't complain about their signals being blocked. And no-one else has keys to the building containing your PC which is kept in a bank vault. Trouble is, such a world is unlikely to exist other than perhaps in your imagination.

    For everyone else, good security is a set of educated trade-offs and compromises. I'm also not sure that I would want to entrust all my data to a company that derives its revenue by mining this data and selling my attention to advertisers. I might, however, consider it an acceptable security compromise as a paying customer to entrust my data to a company with a good reputation for technical and moral competence and keeping to the law and their published data protection policy.

    Most people prefer to entrust a bank with their money as opposed to their own hiding place of choice based on similar reasoning: the bank by looking after money for many customers can probably do a better job of it than they can for themselves.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: privacy?

    "Most people prefer to entrust a bank with their money as opposed to their own hiding place of choice based on similar reasoning: the bank by looking after money for many customers can probably do a better job of it than they can for themselves."

    Yes, and there are all sorts of legal frameworks that make sure that banks do their job. At the moment, Google could disappear overnight and there are no guarantees on what happens with user data.

    It's a simple case of technology developement outstripping legal frameworks. I'll start trusting external agencies with my data when the law catches up.

  15. Dillon Pyron

    Sharepoint, what's that?

    I bought an upgrade to Office 2003 Pro in December. I'm going to run XP until my laptop chokes and dies. Then I'll run OO. Which I already do on my Linux box and my HP-UX box. It looks like the IEEE and ACM will start accepting OO documents. They've already said they won't accept 2007 docs. My publisher accepts 2003 and OO, but not 2007. But they really like Framemaker.

  16. Aslan

    Google is my OS of choice continued

    RE: The drones are coming

    My ISP can record all traffic that goes through it if it wishes, and I can do nothing to prevent it. (I could use encryption, but have you ever tried to get the person on the other end to?) The US government is now attempting to provide retroactive immunity to AT & T, who enabled the US government to illegally spy on American Citizens. It's terrible, but true. There is no US law that will protect my data anywhere.

    Therefore knowing this I may as well store it all with Google, as this provides no less privacy than transmitting it to even one person on the internet.

    As for email remaining free, I've had Yahoo mail since the glorious Netscape Navigator 3.0 days. It's still free and I now have much more storage space. I don't use it but I keep it active. Internet email has been free for what, about 10 years now? It will continue to be so. Google is a publicly traded company, if there were some fundamental problem with Google, or it were being delisted everyone would know, and I'd simply download my email by pop3, forward a copy to my yahoo mail account and send a message to everyone in my address book with my new email address.

    In regards to ISP uptime, I have a wifi router and so do three of my neighbors, My wifi router and one of my neighbors is unencrypted, two are encrypted. I can use the unencrypted one any time I want, I've seen him on my wifi anyway, and anyway I have the keys to the other two, really people ought to get a clue that WEP is dead. There's that, and I keep an image of an AOL trial disk on my computer in reserve for a rainy day.

    About a real OS, Google has many geniuses near geniuses and code gurus working for them, If they chose to launch an OS today it could be available and ready to use next week. Google maintains a number of customized versions of Linux today to run their servers.

    Most of the computers I work on in a day are not mine. Google Apps, my data, email and my instant messaging are instantly available everywhere. Google is a beautiful thing.

  17. Neil

    Give google my personal data?

    ...from my cold dead hands

  18. salman ali

    RE: OS != Filesystem

    An OS is software that manages all your computer's resources. In the context of modern consumer PCs, that includes things like scheduling, multithreading, virtual memory, interrupt handling, and providing abstraction layers for all the various hardware systems in a PC.

    Regardless of the fact that Unix systems view all device I/O as "files", having an online file system has pretty much nothing to do with being an actual Operating System. While Google could conceivably have some form of online OS (I can't really imagine how that could possibly work, but it is Google, so who knows...), this article doesn't actually say anything in support of this.

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