This is a kind of dense post — now that I have scheduled posts working on MT, I can draft these things in the wee hours of the night for future publication.
I have been thinking about Google Pack ever since I heard about it in the CES rumor mill. For those who do not know, Google Pack is a single installation file that includes a lot of the most common utilities you would use on the Internet. I did a little digging to get get some sense for how popular the component apps are:
-Adobe Reader: 1.25 billion cumulative downloads since inception
-Firefox: More than 100 million downloads
-Trillian: No clue how many downloads they have, but not too many (I use it as my default IM program)
-RealPlayer: The #1 or #2 media player on the Internet, so it has many fans
-Ad-Aware: Claims over 200 million users
-Norton Anti-Virus: Top desktop AV product
-Several Cool Google Products: No clue about download history
Okay, if you have a package that includes “core” products like Reader, RealPlayer, and Norton AV, that says something to me. What that says to me is that this bundle is probably not designed for PCs that are already out there and connected to the Internet — if you have a PC and are connected to the Internet, chances are you have these applications already installed on your PC. Some of them even ship standard with PCs from Dell, Gateway, etc. This is obviously some good distribution for smaller products like Ad-Aware, Trillian, and Firefox, not to mention Google’s own products. I am sure there are second-order benefits that will accrue to Google by having people come to think of them as a reliable distributor of packaged desktop software, even if it isn’t all their own.
For all of this talk about networked PCs and such, plain old desktop/laptop PCs still matter. Having a footprint there counts for something, I believe. What I do think is very interesting, however, is that Google is the company doing this. Anybody really could have assembled these components, done the licensing deals, put together the installer, and distributed it. So why Google? Well, I don’t believe that Google wants to be in the PC manufacturing business, but I have to imagine that the idea of having a single image that could get them on lots of PCs and get more customers exposed to Google products would be attractive. Why not take this image and shop it to the likes of a Dell, Gateway, or even some no-name white box PC manufacturers and offer it up to them as a value-add to their customers? Google has good brand equity with consumers and the ability to buy a PC with lots of Google goodies on it could be a good marketing lever for a PC manufacturer. At a minimum, it might be a way for them get some leverage in negotiating with other browser, security, and app vendors.
Just a few other points. I think that the inclusion of Norton is another indication of how seriously Symantec is taking the Microsoft OneCare product. The “pack” includes 6 months of free AV. While it’s good distribution for Symantec, giving away 6 months of free AV when it is not explicitly bundled with a new PC purchase is a strong signal. Including Trillian along with Talk tells me that Talk might not be all the way there as a product. But I am sure increased distribution will help them out.
Also, I don’t think it’s a big deal that there are no productivity apps in this bundle. In its current form, OpenOffice is a large download as is. If they decide to offer something to address the lack of productivity apps, they could either come up with a smaller OpenOffice download or deliver some web-based word-processing and productivity apps. There are plenty of companies working on these already.
This is one of the more interesting strategic developments I have seen from Google in awhile. I look forward to seeing what other things are rolled into Google Pack and how it all unfolds. I am hesitant to believe that it is the non-event that others believe it to be.
Or maybe it is just one of those GOOG things, if you believe the WSJ piece.