I remember one incident in 1994 very clearly. I was doing work experience at a development lab in Malaysia, and one of the programmers who was coaching me handed me a copy of the Win95 beta surreptiously. Scrawled in faint pencil on the cover of the CD-Rom was the following text:
C:\> is dead. Long live the start menu!
It was all a bit odd. But to my point.
Scoble asks why Google would need an OS: various people have already commented on ‘web OS’ versus ‘desktop OS’… which I think is perhaps a layer of abstraction too far.
The reality is… Google Search itself is an OS. Think about it; you know the command line interface: how to search for things such that you’ll find them again. How upset are you when you repeat a search and, for whatever reason, the result you were thinking of doesn’t come up on the first page? Ok, maybe not literally upset, but it can cause some frustration.
Search is your gateway to every application you use on the interweb — in fact, you may not use bookmarks anymore, or a spelling checker, or anything… Just fire up Yahoo!, or Google, or whatever, and you’re away. It’s why (I suspect) people show so much brand loyalty to their search provider — when you’ve learned the syntax of one, why would you switch? It’s the same reason many PC users who might otherwise be swayed by the slick appeal of Apple stay put (not me, I have lots of reasons for not swaying from the good ‘ol PC platform).
And it’s why many search engines, at their most basic level, are homogenizing: the neutral, clean look of Live.com etc. mimics the success of Google in (what’s probably the hope!) that people won’t notice they’re not actually using Google when they fire up their browser of choice.
Everyone wants to be the new C:\> (the start menu really isn’t iconic enough for this).