Apple is taking responsibility for “the user interface and people.” It’s designing the devices themselves, which will be typically elegant machines that run versions of OS X. While Apple puts together the front end of the integrated network-computing system, Google provides “the perfect back end” – the supercomputer that provides the bulk of the data-processing might and storage capacity for the devices. While the devices will come with big flash drives to ensure seamless computing despite the vagaries of network traffic, all data will be automatically backed up into Google’s data centers, and those centers will also serve up most of the applications that the devices run. The applications themselves will represent the joint efforts of Google and Apple – this, I’m sure, is the trickiest element of the partnership – and will be supplemented, of course, by myriad web-delivered software services created by other companies (many of which will, in due course, also run on Google’s supercomputer).Let’s look at a few of the advantages that a Google-Apple Cloud Computer offers:
1. It will be cheap. The introductory machine, a small, general-purpose Apple-branded computer, will go on sale for $199 and in short order the price will fall to $99. There will be no monthly charge for all the applications you use or the data you store – Google will serve all of that up, along with advertisements, naturally, for free. Premium business accounts, without ads, will go for $50 a month, the same price that Google Apps currently goes for.
2. It will be highly energy-efficient. The Cloud Computer, outfitted with a low-power chip, a flash drive and a superefficient LED screen and lacking any optical drive (plug in a usb drive if you need one), will consume a small fraction of the power that a traditional PC burns through. The first model may well be marketed as “the Prius of PCs” and flaunted by celebrities. (Watch for an ad featuring George Clooney.)
3. It will be low-maintenance. With few moving parts and software served up from distant data centers, the machine will be highly reliable and basically immune to viruses and other nasties. Eventually, it will fail, of course. At which point you’ll trade it in for a new one (recycling included), which as soon as you plug it in will precisely replicate the former one. You’ll be about as concerned with “PC maintenance” as you are with refrigerator maintenance. Upgrades and patches? Forget about ’em.
4. It will be flexible. Because your data and applications are stored centrally, you will automatically have full access to them whenever you buy a new Google-Apple device (maybe they’ll license the system to other manufacturers, too) or walk up to a public terminal. Forget about syncing, forget about thumb drives, forget about backups. You’ll never think about that stuff again. All your data is with you all the time.
Bob puts on his realistic hat and discussed why it won’t happen anytime soon and he’s probably right. I have to say though that, anti-competitive concerns aside, it’s a pretty compelling concept.