Don Dodge: Google vs Microsoft on the Browser, Cloud, and Mobile Platforms

by Holland-Mark | December 18, 2009

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Today Holland-Mark adopted Google Apps. I appreciate Don’s optimistic view of the future of Google – granted he works there . . . but of course we share it cause we’re heading for the cloud now too…

Google is an amazing company, even more so from the inside. To the outside world Google is just search. But Google has made three big bets on the future of computing; Chrome OS (browser), Google Apps (cloud), and Android (mobile) that will change everything. VentureBeat interviewed me yesterday about my first month at Google.

Vibe – Google is a high energy environment. Lots of smart people with big ideas. Everything is data driven. Decisions are made based on data that has been analyzed, and going forward everything is monitored and measured based on the data. Opinions and “gut feel” are considered too, but in the end, results are measured by data. Even things like travel expense caps for airfares and hotels are data driven. They keep track of every trip taken and the actual costs for airfares and hotels, then establish the caps based on the data.

The Google campus is beautiful, funky, and efficient. There are bicycles everywhere for people to use to get between buildings. In some ways it feels like a college campus, but the intensity level is much higher. Most people sit in open cubes with four or more people in a pod. Offices with doors typically have 2 or 3 people in them. People work in groups and there is a real sense of teamwork everywhere you look.

Perks – Free breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the gourmet cafes in each building. The food is awesome!! The 401K match is 50% of your contribution up to $8,250. Health plan is pretty good, but not as good as Microsoft’s plan. (MSFT pays for everything, no co-pays, no deductibles.) Google really caters to employees’ needs. On-site dry cleaning service, car washes, oil changes, ATM, fitness centers, haircuts, massage, and concierge services.

Meetings – 30 minutes is the standard, start on time and end early, if possible. Video conferences are pretty standard since the company is geographically distributed. Nearly every conference room has video conference equipment. Everyone uses Google Docs to capture meeting notes, a true example of real-time collaboration.

Gmail – The Gmail you all use as consumers is the same email all Google employees use internally. Threaded conversations are a HUGE time saver and help keep things organized. I didn’t really appreciate that feature until my departure from Microsoft when my email inbox was flooded with messages, many with the same subject line. Gmail made it easy to manage. Links, not attachments, also ensure that you are always working with the latest version of a file. No more searching for the email with the attachment and then making sure it is the latest version with up-to-date changes. Offline Gmail makes all your email and attachments available offline. Great for airplanes or travel.

The future of computing – I think Google has made three big bets on the future of computing; Chrome OS (browser), Google Apps (cloud), and Android (mobile). The trends are pretty clear. All the exciting new applications are running in the browser, with application code in the cloud, and the cell phone as the platform. Your cell phone will become your primary computer. I think in the near future there will be docking stations everywhere with a screen and a keyboard. You simply pull out your phone, plug it into the docking station, and instantly all your applications and data are available to you. Chrome OS, Google Apps, and Android make this vision possible.

Think about the cell phone you had 10 years ago, in 1999, and compare it to the phone you have today. More power, more memory, better networks, more applications, etc. Now project 5 or 10 years ahead. The vision of your phone as your computer is not far off. You will be able to decide which applications and data you want resident on the phone and which you want in the cloud. You will be able to plug it in anywhere; in an airport, hotel, airplane, office lobby, etc, and have instant access to everything you need.

2010 the turning point – I think 2010 will be the year that enterprises of all sizes start their transition to Gmail and Google Apps, and take their first steps towards the vision of the future. The move towards cloud computing is obvious. Gmail and Google Apps are the easy first steps in that direction. The cost savings are enormous, over $500 per user per year. Compare that to buying software licenses and maintenance from the old-style software giants, and add the costs of server hardware, and IT managers to run them.

The next 5 years are going to be exciting. There will be big changes in the software industry. I am thrilled to be at Google and look forward to being a small part of the movement to the future of computing.

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