- 8 Apr 08, 17:19 GMT
Last night Google launched a beta of what it calls the Google App Engine - a service which will host developers' web applications.
"So what?" I hear you ask.
Well, more than 10,000 people signed up in less than 24 hours to the beta and it's an important sign about the direction that Google is going as a company.
And my use of the word "host" is a bit misleading - sorry - the Google App Engine enables developers to run their applications on Google's infrastructure.
Google will offer the CPU cycles, the server space and the bandwidth - the whole shooting match, in effect - to developers. They will also offer use of Google APIs for e-mail, signing in and signing out of users etc.
There's no doubt that hosted services, from web applications to programs we associate mainly with desktop computing, are the future.
From productivity programs to gaming experiences - it's all shifting into the cloud.
I was at an event at the Game Developers Conference earlier this year and Raph Koster shocked some fellow gaming luminaries when he pointed out that Flash would soon have the graphical flexibility and capability of games consoles from just a few years ago.
Increased bandwidth, the evolution of tools like Air and Silverlight, and broadband penetration coupled with Moore's Law is combining to make the future of computing something we'll experience down the pipe and not necessarily hosted on our own machines.
So Google's plunge into this makes sense. It wants to be a part of this future.
But more interesting will be what Google says it will be able to do with the applications and resultant data that it will host on our behalf, on the behalf of developers and companies.
Google could help drive standards not just for the web as we understand it today, but for each and every device that is being connected to the net now and in the coming years - from TVs to cars, from fridges to mobile internet devices.
For companies like Amazon and Salesforce.com, it means big competition in this marketplace right now.
But longer term I hope Google's entry into this will help turn the web into a truly open, cross platform space.
Some fears have already been expressed. Jack Schofield at the Guardian has queried if hosting your app on Google's infrastruture might well leave you open to being bought by the firm in one simple swallow - after all, your entire application already fits inside the Google empire if it's on their servers.
So big bad corporation tries to swallow web development and developers? Or brave new frontier for web development?
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