I do admit that the headline of Google providing 1Gbps ISP service did catch my eye. Even though it is a “test” in selected markets, here are some thoughts:
1) Ooh! Pick my market! I have cable modem service from my local carrier. It’s $55/month for 3Mbs downstream and 300kbps upstream. It’s been pretty reliable. The downstream hasn’t been bandwidth to burn, but has been sufficient for most tasks. (I strongly confess that it is a miracle compared to narrowband). On the other hand, the upstream has been paltry. I can do only one VoIP call at a time, and any uploads to Flickr or similar grind everyone else in the home to a virtual halt. There definitely is a limit on how much I can backup to Mozy. I would love to have just 1Mbps upstream – it would make a huge difference. And even 10Mbps downstream would give me some buffer space. I don’t think anyone will be using 1Gbps anytime soon (remember the “640k is enough RAM for anyone” comment from Bill Gates?), but an honest 100Mbps I think is really the sweet spot. I’d be willing to pay $100/month for 100Mbps symmetric.
On a related note, the limited upstream bandwidth is a thorn in my side. I would love to see some competition come in and challenge the incumbent providers to rethink their bandwidth asymmetry. I do not engage in the transfer of bootleg content. I use Flickr and Mozy. Why must your upstream policy make that painful?
2) We are being seduced into a monopoly. Back in circa 1999 when we were experiencing Google Search for the first time and saying “ooh, aah”, I remember someone saying “Google will become the next Microsoft”. (Remember the lock Microsoft had back then.) I was thinking, “Are you serious?” Fast forward 10 years. They were right. It scares me that Google could potentially own everything from end to end. The OS (Chrome/Android). The servers. The applications. The content. The network. It reminds me of what IBM was pitching during that same period: one throat to choke: PCs, operating system (OS/2), network (IBM Global Network), servers, middleware. Except that IBM ended up selling off the resources that became commodity. And they were geared toward enterprise customers, not consumers. But things are a bit different this time around. The network is much improved. Interoperability has made great strides. Google has a chance to own it all. Unlikely, but possible.
I don’t think Google ultimately has the guts nor the palate to deal with supporting end consumers, whether it is a cell phone or an ISP or anything else that requires more than online help, such as driving a service truck to your house with a backhoe and a ladder. I expect they’ll take a few dips in the water and end up not liking it. But maybe they’ll take persistence lessons from Microsoft.
3) The network is the computer (ref). The technology has matured to a point where it starts to become possible to leave your data and your app in the cloud instead of on your local hard disk. Cloud computing will mature to the point where you can secure your data in a public infrastructure. And virtualization will become so commonplace that you’ll look back and say “I can’t believe we didn’t do this before now.”
So 5 years from now, the current major players will still be there, but in different positions, with different upward/downward trends. There will still be competition, great progress, new up-and-comers, a couple players gone, and great expectations for the following 5 years.