Google and Microsoft looking alike

Interesting post over on Nick Carr’s blog – The loose ties that bind – talking about Google’s strategy to capture 100% of users’ data and the possible implications.

The Google strategy is simple – make storing your data online the default behaviour:

“…As we move toward the ‘Store 100%’ reality, the online copy of your data will become your Golden Copy and your local machine copy serves more like cache…”

This approach makes a lot of sense and probably worries a few of their competitors (makes you wonder why they didn’t buy Flickr and Del.icio.us…). Increasingly there are far more benefits to having your information stored online than having it stored locally on a computer – instant accessibility from any device for starters. But you still want to be able to access that information locally without always being connected to the Internet. For example, I don’t want to require an Internet connection to review my calendar or contacts, regardless of the device I’m using (currently they are stored on my laptop, PDA and mobile phone, with synchronisation software between the laptop and other devices).

But this approach has both pros and cons.

The benefits are simple – having all your information stored online in one location makes sharing data across applications and devices much much easier. There can be both productivity (reducing clicks to complete tasks, instant synchronisation across devices) and intelligence (new insights from analysing data, mash-ups that combine data sources) gains that are simply not possible when data is stuck in separate silos, be they software or hardware barriers.

The costs are also quite simple – the more you rely on integrated products and benefit from them (those productivity and intelligence gains), the higher the cost of switching to alternatives. You become dependent on the vendor who provides you with convenience.

Google isn’t the first to exploit this approach. Microsoft has long been criticised for integrating products and leading customers down the dependency route, initially using proprietary tools and formats and latterly using integration between desktop and (web) server products like SharePoint. Will using the Web and open standards make the situation any more palatable to those critics?