There seems to be a *lot* of conjecture going on regarding Google extending it's reach into the home by offering some kind of client... maybe an OS. There are a lot of comments along the lines of 'the internet has matured enough now' and 'the network is the computer' etc etc. And most of all 'is this the end of Microsoft?'.
Let me just say LOL! What are these people taking (and where can I get some ;-). If someone was serious enough to think that Google was going to make some kind of thin client based foray into the OS market, maybe even combined with some kind of hardware offering, they should also consider what Microsoft currently offers /has in the pipeline in this space. Namely
1) The existing Windows Embedded product
2) The upcoming Eiger thin client
3) Terminal Services, both in it's current form and the upcoming Longhorn version (which will be offering things like seamless applications, which Citrix has had for at least 10 years)
4) Exchange / Outlook Web Access, Sharepoint
And on top of that, consider what Microsoft would have to gain by competing with Google in terms of a 'managed service' offering. Very few software companies have piracy problems on the scale that Microsoft does. If Microsoft could drop development of a full blown OS tomorrow and only offer a thin client solution that cost little or nothing and host a bunch of services on the backend that people paid for on a subscription basis, they would be more profitable than they are now. Not only would their payroll be cut in half, so would their R&D, their support costs and their security headache (and associated image problems) would verge on disappearing.
But is Microsoft heading in this direction? Of course not. If they were, what would the likes of Intel, AMD, Creative, nVidia, ATI, Seagate, Maxtor, Samsung, Hynix, Dell, HP and all the other massive hardware companies out there do about it? Probably switch to Linux :-P. Seriously though, these hardware companies benefit so much by having Microsoft add features that require more CPU, more RAM, more disk, better graphics etc etc. The last thing they would want to see would be a massive swing to thin client or appliance based computing. There's certainly no way the likes of Dell or anyone else would entertain manufacturing a low cost, low margin thin client for Google. I can see Steve Ballmer's reaction now. I suppose Google could try to make a go of hardware manufacturing alone, but it would be a brave, expensive gamble.
I'll be interested to look back on this in a few years time.