protocol7 archive
7 January 2006

Google Pack, apt-get for Windows

Yesterday, Google annonouced their much rumoured Google Pack. Up front, it’s a collection of some, from the looks of it, randomly selected free (as in beer) software components that you can download in one installation pack. However, I don’t think the included software as such is what is interesting here. The cool stuff is the Google Updater that comes with the download. Updater keeps a list of installable software, keeps track of what you got installed and when updates are released.

Google is likely to greatly expand the collection of installable software. For one, OpenOffice is surely getting included as part of the deal with Sun. And by including both Google Talk and Trillian in the initial stack, I think Google shows that they are aiming at a large number of downloads, including multiple, competing components for the same task.

Given a large, but quality controlled, collection of available software, Updater will be apt-get (or YaST or Yum…) for the Windows platform. This is what I think is the goal for Google. Google Pack could be a efficient way for Windows users to simplify installation and keeping up to date with their software. Say, you want to edit images. You turn to the Google Pack homepage, choose one of the recommended software and click install. Minutes later, Updater has installed it for you and will keep you updated with future releases. All of this without you having to spend a single dollar. Currently you have to do this manually, while Linux users just run apt-get or open up Synaptic. Ubuntu even runs updates as a daily task, always keeping you up to date.

Google is the perfect company to successfully complete this task. They have the publicity to get it widespread and the infrastructure to keep up with the popularity. Also, they do not have a large investment in being a software developer, which keeps them from limiting the competition. Microsoft could never do this in the same manner as long as they intend to sell licenses their software (would they include a free alternative to Office?).

So, what’s in it for Google? Besides being a pain in the ass for Microsoft by increasing the competition on Microsoft own, controlled platform. I have no clue. But, on the other hand, most of the Google tools as to date do not have a obvious business plan.

Update: John Battelle got some more info on Google Pack. So far my suspicions seems to hold up.

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