The Google Operating System: Myth or Reality

December 7, 2008

“Does Google have a Secret OS?” by Andy Patrizio appeared in Internet News on December 4, 2008 here. I found the write up to be thought provoking. Mr. Patrizio makes it clear that Google did not his direct questions. Like many Google watchers, he must rely on other types of information to tackle the question of the secret Google operating system. The acronym GOS is quite close to goose, and I have been reluctant to land on a hard “yes” as the answer to this question. The main point of Mr. Patrizio’s article is that Android, the Google operating system for mobile phones, may be a first step. Mr. Patrizio pointed to Rob Enderle, one of the big dogs at that consultancy, for this comment:

Such an OS would be an expanded version of the Android OS the company recently released for mobile phones, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst for The Enderle Group. “They were clear they were going to go down this direction, with a platform that largely lives off the cloud with Google apps,” he told InternetNews.com. Look at it as the Android concept expanded to a PC.”

Forbes’ Magazine added fuel to the Google operating system fire with its “Google’s Invisibility Cloak” here by Elizabeth Woyke.

The new data showed that a percentage of Internet users in Google’s offices (principally based in the company’s Mountain View headquarters) are using an operating system that essentially shields itself from detection by stripping traffic of identifying information. Vizzacarro describes this data, known as a user agent, as a string of information that a computer uses to identify itself. Removing it (possibly via a proxy server) means that outsiders like Net Applications can’t tell which operating system a particular Web user is using. (Net Applications uses other methods, like a Web site’s JavaScript to detect other information about a user and determine that the traffic is coming from Google.) About 11% of Google’s Web traffic currently shows up like this. The level fluctuates daily, Vizzacarro says. A few days ago it was around 30%.

My hunch is that Google has been plugging away on various technical challenges. However, Google seems content to tap into public facing carnival show only when it must. I think Android, Chrome, individualized Google and the other software components are designed to make specific operations possible in tightly controlled ways. At some point, Google may abandon its component-by-component approach.

My research into Google’s patent documents suggests that Google has moved through several eras of software development in the firm’s 10 year history. Like Google’s potential energy in publishing, the company exposes only what must be exposed to allow a specific type of operation to occur. Google has quite a few components which are not available to users and partners. In my opinion, what Google will eventually have on offer will be code components that permit more and more sophisticated operations to occur.

At some point, enough components will be available so an observer can say, “Look, Google really has an operating system.” If a person asserts that a Google operating system is ready for release, Google will probably pull another Searchology type of public relations play to regain control of the information stream.

A better question is, “Does Google make available its full array of software components and services to most Google engineers or just to the top ranking Google fellows, scientists, and technical wizards?” Anyone have data to share?

Stephen Arnold, December 7, 2008

Comments

5 Responses to “The Google Operating System: Myth or Reality”

  1. Curious About Google? 10 Google Slideshows « Social Media Scribe on December 8th, 2008 2:33 pm

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  3. l hickey on June 20th, 2009 10:31 am

    I am a Microsoft about-to-be deserter. My windows xp from dell is running like glue, because I had a virus attack about a year ago, and how McAfee is running and turning my web experience into a waiting game. McAfee and TrendMicro and the other virus vendors will kill Microsoft because people like me are on the warpath. Apple for me on the next computer purchase. I hope a new Google operating system will come on a cd from which you run the computer, with NO opportunity for the web app to do ANYTHING, cookies, or anything, to my PC, Then I can toss out that virus software the looks for signatures in all traffic. If Microsoft did a survey of all customers who say they are about to jump ship, they would learn that the virus companies are causing their systems to run like glue, and people like me are in the lifeboats. I hope Google (OR APPLE) make a op system invulnerable to work or network attacks, or that lacking, a easy way to quickly and routinely return to a clean slate as a matter of routine maintenance.
    Nothing that I am asking for can’t be done with XP or Vista, but this machine is basically my wife’s machine, and she doesn’t know the registry from a banana.

  4. Stephen E. Arnold on June 21st, 2009 8:01 am

    I hickey,

    My view is that security exists when the computing device is in a locked room, unplugged, and the switch in the off position. The Google won’t do much more than Microsoft has with regard to bulletproofing a computing device.

    Stephen Arnold, June 21, 2009

  5. R Hartley on July 11th, 2009 10:00 am

    I got rid of windows vista on my pc, I now run linux mint,,this runs like a dream never had a problem on it in 6 months,,all my friends are installing this OS now,,,because all windows runs slow,,,