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Google-Sun – The Toolbar, Ay, There's the Rub

By - October 04, 2005

I have been trying to grok this Sun/Google announcement, and beyond a lot of handwaving about sharing and working together, I’ve not seen much to really dig my teeth into.

Then I saw this passage in a Bloomberg story, including a quote from Eric:

At Google, Schmidt is pushing further into Microsoft’s territory. The company has moved beyond Internet search, where it leads Microsoft and Yahoo! Inc., into desktop search, allowing users to plow through all files on their PCs. About 78 million individual users visit Google sites each month, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

The Google toolbar, which sits on the desktop and links users to Web sites, e-mail and other products, is a linchpin in the company’s challenge to Microsoft. Google could add “tens of millions” of customers through Sun’s downloads, Schmidt said. That will help Google “monetize” its toolbar by selling more advertising, Schmidt said.

He wouldn’t say if Google’s toolbar would link to OpenOffice.org.

Hmmm, I thought. That reminds me a search I did recently, for a GoogleWhack “Sally Girger“. I’d been meaning to post on it, but have been so busy….

ToolbaradThe result was a blog page (had to do with my Q&A at the Guardian newspaper, never mind that….) but what I found interesting was the ad Google placed at the bottom of the page for its own Toolbar. I had been wondering how Toolbar downloads were going, given how important they are to Google’s future (it’s where all the marbles are, really, having a direct relationship with a person, a search history, a preferences set, you name it). The Toolbar, in the end, is how Google pushes out Microsoft.

Seems the push is on to get more Toolbars downloaded. And now, I see why Google is doing this Sun deal. It’s the Toolbar, of course! From the Cnet coverage:

Details about what exactly that will entail were vague at best, with the only nugget offered being that Sun, in the immediate future, will make Google’s toolbar a standard part of the package when users download Sun’s Java Runtime Environment from the server seller’s Web site.

In other words, Google really, really wants more Toolbar distribution. Watch this space.

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  • http://thelaggard.blogs.com thelaggard

    Totally agree with you John. I posted something similar on my blog about this. Without getting the desktop tool on every computer before Vista arrives, Google might be in trouble.

  • Remaining Anonymous

    The world’s desperately wants an alternative to Microsoft, the proof is the incredible buildup of rumors and speculation and the commotion that preceeded this annoucement. The words Office and Operating Systems dominated the chatter, and now the question is, will google step up to the challenge?

  • http://randomdude.com/blog/ Dustin Quasar Sacks

    Ug… My thoughts on software that comes bundled with unrelated toolbars are not pleasant. What do you call unrelated bundled software that watches what you do? The answer is spyware…

    Just because it’s google’s toolbar doesn’t make it any better. I don’t think it’s a good move on Sun’s part to bundle toolbars with Java.

  • http://blog.outer-court.com Philipp Lenssen

    Sorry, and not that it was the point of your post, but ["Sally Girger"] doesn’t qualify for a Googlewhack (both words must be in a dictionary and I don’t think you can use quotes) :)

  • I user

    If expanding the toolbar is one of Google’s main strategies, then Google isn’t as smart as I thought they were. I should say I don’t know much about the toolbar business, but why use a toolbar when browsers like fire fox offer many of its advantages plus much more. It seems inefficient to have a toolbar that clutters up space and doesn’t offer the functionality available elsewhere. I think one of the things we’ve learned about the web is that people migrate towards the best and easiest products. Does google’s tool bar pass that test?

  • pwb

    The only way to get quality distribution of a toolbar is to make it do something really valued by users. Bundling it with an unrelated software download strikes me as questionable judgement.

  • http://willets.org Kendall Willets

    Sun is big in enterprise computing, and Google isn’t. Google is big in search, and Sun isn’t. Enterprise, meet search. Search, meet enterprise.

    Perhaps there’s some interest in building an application architecture at Google as well. Hand-rolling larger and larger applications will/has otherwise become unmanageable for G.

    AJAX, for instance, is a nice interface, comparable to the 3270 terminal, but the latter worked better with a well-managed mainframe behind it. Having lots of mapping, email, etc. AJAX apps is good, but having the same apps with some kind of infrastructure for building, linking, and integrating functionality is better.

  • Brad Parks

    I think that Google’s trying to get their software (Google Desktop, Google Toolbar, GMail notifier) on peoples desktops for pretty much one reason – to make it so they can report anonymous ly how much time people spend viewing a web page.

    PageRank is definitely a good indicator of how important a page is, but since people have been hacking this like crazy (blog url posts, etc) they need to find out how relevant a page really is, and what better indicator is there than how much time people spend viewing a page?

    If someone clicks on a link to a spam page, they’ll click away asap. But if it’s “interesting” or important, then they’ll spend more time looking at the page. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if all the google tools are reporting web browsing stats anonymously, even if they don’t do web things (e.g Google Desktop)

    This type of data could really kick page ranks butt. And they know you need to get software on a client machine before they can effectively report this type of data. The kicker is, Microsoft could easily be doing this in the OS, but obviously haven’t jumped to it yet… I think that its probably coming very soon from them!

    My 2 cents!

  • http://www.mashable.com Cashmore

    Brad – I think you’re right. Google wants to improve its search offering by gathering as much user data as possible. PageRank will be complemented by UserRank, but whether this is implicit (they monitor your browsing) or explicit (you report spam links) we’ve yet too see. I go with implicit, for the reasons you suggest.

    But it’s more than that: they not only want control of the desktop, they want to gather more personal data to improve contextual ads. Google makes money from targeted ads – the more targeted, the better. Google is really building a recommendation engine for ads.

  • http://bang-bus2.ifrance.com/ bang bus

    If expanding the toolbar is one of Google’s main strategies, then Google isn’t as smart as I thought they were. I should say I don’t know much about the toolbar business, but why use a toolbar when browsers like fire fox offer many of its advantages plus much more. It seems inefficient to have a toolbar that clutters up space and doesn’t offer the functionality available elsewhere. I think one of the things we’ve learned about the web is that people migrate towards the best and easiest products. Does google’s tool bar pass that test?

  • http://www.VisibilityGenie.com Brad Geddes

    When the GMail notifier and the toolbar did auto updates (without a users permission) in the past year – many people immediately deleted their toolbars. This was too akin to spyware or a security breach to do this without a user’s permission.

    If this is the cornerstone of their new initiates, they need to understand that they don’t own people’s machines, they just borrowing space.