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Bill Brown

A complicated man.

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There’s some buzz this morning around the fact that attempts to start an XMPP session—the indications of a Jabber server. We use Jabber at work and I immediately thought that the public Jabber server was probably for internal use.

This Slashdot comment got me to thinking, though. XMPP is XML-based and the whole XmlHttpRequest phenomena that Google has launched is often XML-based (the “X” in AJAX, to wit). What if they made a web-based IM client that didn’t require page refreshes? It could easily be a part of the Gmail interface and, with some DHTML trickery, it could rest on top of Gmail—and easily moved aside at will. Or it could integrate Gmail users so you could see when your contacts are online and not have to send an email.

Imagine targeted ads tied to real-time conversations. I’m sure Google is imagining it. “Have you found a hotel for your trip to New York, Martha?” “Not yet.” ad appears for travelocity “Wait. Okay, I just booked it.” Incredible.

[UPDATE: Kottke’s got some wild speculation up about Google’s direction. It’s entirely possible that he’s spot on, but one little thing kept pestering me as I was reading it: so GoogleOS makes the underlying OS irrelevant, but few people run just a stock OS. They have applications that they use, many of which would never be practical over the Web. The ones that are have pretty good desktop equivalents.

So what’s the compelling reason to use a GoogleOS version of iTunes instead of the Windows or Apple version? If you can only listen to it on your machine when it’s online (or offline, when you’re disconnected from the Internet), then what does that get you beyond the regular iTunes? Kottke didn’t say that you could listen to your music over the Web-ified iTunes and there’s a reason he didn’t: the RIAA wouldn’t stand for it.

There’s another problem with Kottke’s vision: bandwidth. His backup app would require a considerable amount of storage as well as a huge amount of bandwidth (though I reckon that with a largely-denuded computer, there might not be much to backup). Can you imagine wanting to put an image of your computer for easy restoration on the Web? You’ve got a huge task going up and a huge task coming down.

Being generous, it’s interesting speculation but I think that Kottke should leave the wild-eyed conjecture for the master: Robert X. Cringely.]

[UPDATE 2: After further consideration, I think that Google isn’t as cunning as Kottke and others suppose. It’s possible that they’re not entertaining any grand schemes or ambitions beyond monetizing advertising in every form they can. It’s possible that they developed Google Desktop not as some sort of insidious beachhead into the user’s computer so that they can build an operating system piecemeal but more as an additional value to the Google search engine. It’s instructive that Google Desktop shows up on the Google home page and vice versa.

As a software engineer (though not of the caliber to work at Google), I can say that much of what they’ve done over the years seems very engineer-driven. There have been many applications that don’t really have a revenue purpose but are really cool and have probably generated a lot of revenue through goodwill. The GoogleOS that Kottke describes sounds very much like something a marketer or MBA would dream up. As I said before, Kottke may be completely right—but I think he’s likely spectacularly wrong.]

[UPDATE 3: Wow, Google Talk is a live Jabber server that can be accessed using your Gmail credentials. {via}]

[UPDATE 4: Google Talk is live! Wow. It’s a lot more than a simple Jabber client. I love that the sample screenshot they include refers to the circulating rumors. Sadly, none of my above speculation was correct. But neither was Kottke’s. {via}]

[UPDATE (8/26/2005): Wow, Cringely’s downright reasonable on this subject.]