Google’s release of its Gmail Video service is noteworthy for several reasons. It is integrated into the Gmail console, adding voice and video services to the realtime console that is being built out around XMPP. It is remarkably easy to use; Dan Farber just called to test the service and I popped the window out and continued chatting with him while returning to this post. Several alerts on Yammer and Friendfeed’s realtime IM competed briefly in other chat windows. Oh, and Google just added about a quarter of its version of Silverlight to my MacBook Air. Call it Silverlite.
If I hadn’t already installed the new service yesterday to get an advanced look, Farber’s call this morning would have prompted me to download and install a 2MB plugin. The code works with Intel Macs and Vista or XP, and so far
only on Firefox and Safari (with some install issues) on the Mac. So by installing the plugin, I’ve basically added a significant part of Google’s multimedia services to this machine. It’s not Flash either. It’s cross-platform, it’s RIA code, it’s not Flash. Am I making my point?
[Note: Flash is used along with proprietary code. More as Google clarifies.]
Couple this with all the new doodads Gmail has added in recent weeks via Gmail Labs: tools to float the IM panel on the opposite side of the Gmail window, widgets to integrate Google Calendar and Docs, and drag and drop functionality to rearrange all these modules on the page. The calendar object is particularly useful, because not only does it display coming events for multiple calendars in a simple scrolling interface, but it lets you add events from within Gmail. In effect, it roundtrips the experience in a way that promotes more and more usage. It’s lock-in by choice, and it threatens Microsoft at its very core.
The 2MB plugin is perhaps even more insidious. Who knows what services it adds that the growing grid of Gmail tools can access. What if Gmail Labs offers a video annotation service, or a podcast recording module, or a collaborative screen sharing capability, or a micromessaging console, or a group meeting organizer/live blogging console, or… These are enterprise apps, popping up on demand or as upsells to what is rapidly becoming a serious Office competitor. And what part of the 2MB can run on Android? This last one will drive Apple nuts, and likely force Silverlight onto the iPhone to boot.
This is Cloud Office, folks, and all you need is a reasonably new machine. It’s also iterative deployment, where 3G delivers a realtime, intelligent caching media fabric that disrupts terrestrial radio, cable television, and the Hollywood studio system. With the 2MB down payment, Google can continue to add code multiplexed with content, streaming additional upgrades and services along with alerts, conversations, and appointment requests. Advertising will morph from selling a product to being part of the product.
By blurring the boundary between Ajax and RIA, Google has found a way to grow into the Mesh that Microsoft is close to delivering from IT outward. In many ways, this strategy is supportive of the new Microsoft as much as it is disruptive of the old. Just as Microsoft can’t be stopped from executing on its cloud strategy in the enterprise, neither can Google from its base in the user cloud. Where the two platforms meet in the middle looks a lot like a hybrid of iTunes and Office.