Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Google Shines a Light on Future Online Content Storage Plans

Stock markets reacted with recently typical disappointment about Google earnings growth based on some data that slipped out in a recent analyst presentation (New York Times), which is somewhat ironic based on the core data presented in their slides: if you're not happy with 20-plus percent revenue growth, 35 percent margin and about twice the revenues per employee of peer companies, then perhaps it's us and not Google that needs a reality check. But the real news coming out of this session was captured by Greg Linden and Richard MacManus at ZDNet, when some as-yet-unannounced product plans were alluded to in the slide narrative. The key phrase from Greg's notes: "We already have efforts in this direction in terms of GDrive, GDS, Lighthouse, but all of them face bandwidth and storage constraints today." GDS is presumably Google Desktop Search, and GDrive is presumably a capability to store users' personal content within the Google infrastructure. Google makes it clear in their analyst presentation that their goal is to store 100 percent of the world's personal content in one form or another, so GDrive would be a step in this direction. But the Lighthouse mention goes unexplained. MacManus believes that it relates to access control lists, so reasonable speculation could be that this is a form of access control for content stored in Google infrastructure...perhaps even a form of universal rights management, I would add, that could extend out to user platforms.

Whatever the ultimate product direction that Google takes with these inferences it's clear that their strategy is to provide a comfortable home for content that can be used and reused in many different environments. This is not so different from what content companies such as LexisNexis are trying to accomplish via partnerships with document management infrastructure providers (see our News Analysis), so let's not circle the "Google is trying to destroy publishing as we know it" wagons just yet. But it again emphasizes that when the world is a database, aided and abetted by strategies from providers such as Google, traditional
publishers need to take a much broader look as to what constitutes publishing services. That's difficult sometimes when so much of your current revenue base is centered around centralized databases, but platform independence is pushing content to be able to manage itself in more universal access media day by day. Without any significant investment in user platform technology, Google is free to service publishers in this universal media far better than players such as Microsoft that may own huge shares of today's corporate and consumer infrastructure but whose strategies seem inevitably to center around the defense of that infrastructure rather than the defense of users' needs to have universal access to content.

Lighthouse could be the bridge that publishers will be using to move from decades of frustration trying to manage content on machines that are designed to be inherently hostile to the interests of publishers to an environment in which every person is recognized as a publisher that needs to manage their content in a sensible fashion with the world. More to come, but it's an interesting glimpse into where the buzz is likely to be in the months ahead.
Post a Comment