As with Google's little experiment with inserting an HTML-based Pac-Man game in their search page logo a few months ago, this is likely just a taste of what the Google Editions experience can be like. You might say that it's a little akin to Apple's inclusion of the children's classic "Winnie the Pooh" as a free ebook for its iPad when it launched. This charming little book gave people a feel as to what it would be like to use a touch screen device as an ebook that people connected with immediately. Notably, though, although the "20 Things" is laid out and illustrated like a children's book, the content is a tutorial on what it means to use content the Google (Web) way. For example, in the chapter on apps, the book says:
...the web is an open platform. Anyone can reach it from a browser on any web-connected device, regardless of whether it’s a desktop computer, laptop, or mobile phone. That means I can use my favorite web apps even if I’m using my friend’s laptop or a computer at an Internet cafe.This is obviously a direct plug for Google's view of open Web apps working via browsers as the future of functionally oriented functional content services. Indirectly it implies that Google's anticipated Chrome Web Store's agnostic approach to aggregating browser-launchable apps is preferable to a closed-system approach like Apple uses for its apps, which work only on Apple equipment and are sold only via Apple online stores. Since Google's anticipated Chrome OS-supported tablet devices are going to be optimized for browser-supported apps, it's also a plug for that device also, though it's doubtful that the launch of Google Editions will be held up for the launch of those devices.
Instead, it's more likely that the "soon" timing of the Google Editions launch that we've been hearing about for weeks is going to center on a release of Google's Android operating system used for mobile phones and a new generation of tablet devices. The "20 Things" book does not work in the current versions of Android's browser, so you will have to wait for the Gingerbread (version 3.0) release of Android, already available to developers, and expected to be the Android release that powers a new wave of tablets appearing this December at electronics stores and probably appearing in retail stores in January. It's possible that Gingerbread will hit mobile phone users before then, but I wouldn't hold my breath for that.
Instead, my bet would be for the Google Editions launch to hit in December as a table-setter for people to have content already purchased that they can display on their Android tablets and mobile phones once Gingerbread hits in January. I doubt (hope) that Editions doesn't wait any longer than that (what better a stocking stuffer than the latest in ebooks bought online during the holidays?), but you never know. In the meantime, mobile browsers more ready for the underpinnings of the Google Editions features may be able to handle this preview already.
So some time in January people will be flipping through "20 Things" in stores the way that they were "Winnie the Pooh" several months ago on iPads, except that it will be a new story for a new world of cross-platform, browser-based ebook content being told and not just a cute little fable (though I imagine that there will be plenty of kids' books on it, also). As Research in Motion CEO Jim Basille noted in his recent speech at the Web2.0 conference, "You don't need an [Apple] app for the Web." True, Jim, but you do need the right content and functionality. It looks like Google Editions is queued up to be one of a series of powerful Web-based apps launched in the next year by Google and others that will make people rethink the "walled garden" approach to content distribution via apps yet again.