It’s All Just Hype Until It Actually Ships
As a technologist, I am always on the lookout for new and exciting products, solutions and discoveries which will be coming to a store near me at some point in the future. Whenever possible, I look to jump on the beta bandwagon and preview or test drive up-and-coming technology solutions. Not only is it fun in and of itself, but it gets the brain engaged in new ways to address ongoing problems for which a solution might otherwise be elusive.
It is possible, however, to get carried away with speculation of what will be, simply based on some announcement by a vendor of what they intend to produce in 6, 12 or 18 months. Back in the late 90s and the earlier part of this decade, there was ongoing rivalry between nVidia and ATI (now part of AMD), and there were always some heated discussions about which vendor and which product was better on various boards/forums that I frequented. The problem was that these discussions had more to do with what was coming from both companies, rather than what was currently shipping.
Typical debates resembled the following: Sure, the Vendor1 BlahBlah beats the Vendor2 YadaYada by 5 PixelMarks at 1280x1024 resolution, but have you seen the specs on Vendor2’s upcoming product family? It will blow the doors off on Vendor1’s next generation stuff.
Now, I don’t need to tell you how many times the future did not quite play out as anticipated by the loyal adherents of either camp. Sometimes Vendor2 did leapfrog Vendor1 with the next product, but many times there were delays, broken promises of performance, quality issues, or such major changes needed to support the improvements, that the new functionality failed to gain the necessary traction. As a result of all these pitfalls to guaranteed success, I found myself saying the following more and more often:
It’s all just hype until it actually ships.
Well, it seems that July 2009 brings us back to the same point – just with different players. For the past few years, it would seem as though Google is the favorite vendor of many, and there is this perception that they can do no wrong.
In the past few weeks, they have have had a flurry of announcements, including the release of Google Apps (including Google Mail) from beta, and the upcoming development of ChromeOS for NetBooks. This has led to some pretty ridiculous prognostications about how the OS landscape will dramatically change, and how Google will give Microsoft a run for their money.
What sheer nonsense, people. It’s one thing to argue about the merits and strengths of the existing Mac OS X vs Windows, because, well, it actually exists, and both Apple and Microsoft have been doing this for quite a while. They both have a shipping product with real applications that can actually be tested.
Google has nothing right now, but a product announcement. And it is an announcement that they will be building an OS based largely on their recent browser. That’s okay, for the most part, since the target market is low-end netbooks.
But it’s not as if the Google browser is dominating the browser landscape such that thoughts of its OS dominance could be speculated on. It’s not.
Depending on which of the following articles you read about browser marketshare, you’ll find that Chrome is significantly behind IE and FireFox, in some cases behind the newest release of FireFox.
It will a great idea of all these pundits can wait until Google actually manages to release at least beta code before they make a determination about how drastically different the marketplace will be.
In fact, Google has enough to worry about right now. Microsoft is entering the cloud in earnest, and has some competition ready for Google Apps. Also, for its first month, Microsoft’s revitalized search engine, Bing, has been doing rather well.
What we are getting right now is much needed competition both on the desktop, and in the cloud, and chances are that this will result in better products for less.
Many people favor Google because they have a 21st century feel to them, and they’re the perfect opponent to the hated Microsoft, but think for a moment that Google will not embrace all the dominant aspects of Microsoft if they are able to set all the standards they want.
Newsflash: Corporations are not inherently good (or evil, for that matter), but they, like their leaders, are out for their own good and the good of their shareholders. They’re not simply there to be noble.
So, let’s sit back and see how this competition unfolds. Google has a bit to learn when it comes to dealing with enterprises, even though they’ve been selling stand-alone appliances into the enterprise for nearly a decade now. It’s very different when it comes to office productivity and integration, as they are now learning. And I haven’t even gotten into security in the cloud, which is something that needs to be discussed in depth.
I’m willing to predict that it will be a fun ride for the next 6-18 months (at the very least), and that both consumers and enterprise customers will benefit from the competition of these two industry titans, but we all need to remember that product announcements and other marketing tactics mean very little in the long-term:
It’s all just hype until it actually ships.