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Google PC, Google Server

Before I could even get to a prediction for the coming year (check back tomorrow), I'm diverted into speculation...but such speculation! First, though, I will predict that 2006 will be the Year Of Google, and of Microsoft's inevitable reaction to its continued market forays.
But today's news that Google may be considering a branded PC running a Google-derived OS is just too delicious not to comment on. This, of course, is Microsoft's worst fear should it come to pass: Redmond has spent years looking to counter every threat it perceived to its effective Windows monopoly, even to the point of courting antitrust ruin. Nothing was more important. If Google follows through on any type of plan such as this--and why else would it be spending money on weird deals like a stake in AOL, if not to assemble the pieces of such an OS?--then battle is well and truly joined.

I don't think Google would necessarily stop there, either. Think for a second: What is Google's main asset? I don't mean the market cap from its IPO, or the various pieces of technology it's developing as it goes along. No, what Google still really is is a great algorithm for processing searches and a massive, incredibly efficient, highly tricked-out server farm with more than 100,000 servers. Does ANY company know more about running servers in massive parallel than Google, and how to get the most out of a server load? I doubt it.

So, my speculation: I would not be surprised, if this Google PC idea bears fruit, to see a similar effort aimed at servers, with a Google-tweaked server OS that's either sold as a stand-alone app or a hosted service. The company already has its own custom clustering OS and file system; it would not take forever to scale that down to the commercial market. And for hosting, Google's technology is totally there now. All it'd need to do is pile up more servers. Its investment in a massive core network to take all of its digital distribution private makes running a ton of distributed server farms very workable. And a Google server OS would present Microsoft with a threat on a flank it's hoping to grow right now -- its Windows Server franchise. File this in the "check me later" bin, but I'll bet that down the road just a small bit, we see this happen.