Google playing bigger games :: google cube
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The guardian has this story today:

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Speculation is mounting that Page will use a keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Friday to unveil details of a low-cost computer or internet-enabled device that will run on a new operating system developed by Google.

Because the device - similar in concept to the Mac Mini unveiled last year by Apple's Steve Jobs - doesn't use Microsoft's Windows, it could cost as little as $200.

Despite its low price it would enable users to collect and store internet-delivered content such as films, music and photos then show it on TV.

According to the LA Times, Google will announce details of the new device at CES, where it could also unveil its partnership with Wal Mart to sell the machines.

This continues what was being speculated on earlier. Robert X. Cringely, in the November 17 edition of his I, Cringely blog:

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The probable answer lies in one of Google's underground parking garages in Mountain View. There, in a secret area off-limits even to regular GoogleFolk, is a shipping container. But it isn't just any shipping container. This shipping container is a prototype data center. Google hired a pair of very bright industrial designers to figure out how to cram the greatest number of CPUs, the most storage, memory and power support into a 20- or 40-foot box. We're talking about 5000 Opteron processors and 3.5 petabytes of disk storage that can be dropped-off overnight by a tractor-trailer rig. The idea is to plant one of these puppies anywhere Google owns access to fiber, basically turning the entire Internet into a giant processing and storage grid.

My favorite line there is about the Opteron processors. For those without lives, there was a tedious debate in the webmaster forums a while ago dealing with whether or not Google was switching to 64 bit computing in its datacenters. Obviously, it is going to do that, and as this makes fairly clear, has already done so.

And the November 24 edition had this:
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But the most important reason for Google to distribute its data centers in this way is to work most efficiently with a hardware device the company is thinking of providing to customers. This embedded device, for which I am afraid I have no name, is a small box covered with many types of ports - USB, RJ-45, RJ-11, analog and digital video, S-video, analog and optical sound, etc. Additional I/O that can't be seen is WiFi and Bluetooth. This little box is Google's interface to every computer, TV, and stereo system in your home, as well as linking to home automation and climate control. The cubes are networked together wirelessly in a mesh network, so only one need be attached to your broadband modem or router. Like VoIP adapters (it does that too, through the RJ-11 connector) the little cubes will come in the mail and when plugged in will just plain work.

What do we learn from this? Google is thinking way bigger than SEOs, who are just scrabbling around chasing after crumbs.

I was definitely wrong about how I thought of google, these guys are thinking outside the box. All those PHDs and computer pros they've been assembling have after all been up to something much more interesting than the latest algo tweak. This is what's really behind google's cherry picking of all the top IT companies.

Now it's making more sense: keep the riffraff, the seos, and all those, watching things that don't matter in any larger scheme of things, while you're making the next logical step.

Some people think big, some people can't even seen the idea when somebody else has thought it. This is very interesting.

Re the box, my guess is that it's a cisco systems type linksys type box, if you follow such things you're aware that there's been a popular fad of massively hacking linksys WRT54G wireless routers of a certain generation, making them into full on linux networking appliances. The boxes already have flash and other types of memory, as well as small processors.

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If you have a WRT54G, here's what you can use it for after less than an hour's work. You get all the original Linksys functions plus SSH, Wonder Shaper, L7 regexp iptables filtering, frottle, parprouted, the latest Busybox utilities, several custom modifications to DHCP and dnsmasq, a PPTP server, static DHCP address mapping, OSPF routing, external logging, as well as support for client, ad hoc, AP, and WDS wireless modes.

If that last paragraph meant nothing at all to you, look at it this way: the WRT54G with Sveasoft firmware is all you need to become your cul de sac's wireless ISP. Going further, if a bunch of your friends in town had similarly configured WRT54Gs, they could seamlessly work together and put out of business your local telephone company.

What is being discussed here is simply adding a few more ports to the box. Tutorial for hacking linksys WRT54G router.

This also explains what the firefox developers they hired have been doing: Google has been rolling their own ultra tight linux package to run on these boxes, and the interface will be Gecko/Firefox based. In other words, for all practical purposes, the interface to the OS/Hardware/Network will be the browser. Very interesting.

Now I can see why these guys are billionaires.

I wonder if this is one reason that MSN search development has been slowing down? Does MS realize that the game was bigger than they realized?

The announcement is supposed to come Friday, January 6, we'll see what it actually is.

My guess is a networking appliance with Linux as OS, but not useable as anything other than an interface type thing. We'll see what the specs are, if it will have a hard drive or not.

I've been wondering how long it would take to start scaling down processor and box specs to bare minimums, it doesn't take very much to run a browser, especially if the Office files are stored off the box, in those data centers.
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There's more coming, thick and fast. Here is the new Google Patent. The key part is here:

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Consequently, the same antenna can be used to receive incoming baseband RF signals as well as transmit baseband RF signals, thereby providing full duplex operation.

As you may notice, this is almost exactly what is being discussed above, a small box that sends and receives wireless signals, creating a network without any centralized receiver/broadcaster units, or far fewer than a standard wireless network would require.

It gets more interesting all the time. Google and Walmart both denied that they were teaming up to sell a cheap computer.

Which means the LA times fell for some misinformation. Clearly only a fool would want to get into the low cost PC business, anyone who has run Linux without being a fanatic knows you can't deliver a supportable newbie PC box running linux and expect to be able to support it and make money.

But that's not what Google is doing. They aren't stupid. They wil be running Linux in the network appliance. It won't be a PC, it will just be a box you plug into, phone line for VoIP, networking for your PC, and so on. A black box that is, using Linux as an embedded, more or less, OS. Gets more interesting all the time.
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