With the launch of its new user tracking search service, Google is moving another step toward the holy grail of the next generation of the internet: unified computing.
Unified computing was first introduced as a concept in the world of local area networks (LANs) and Wide Area Networks (WANs). It allowed people to maintain the same documents and system settings no matter what computer on the network they were using.
The next step in this process is to integrate the LAN with the Web. With more and more people acquiring second, third, and even fourth computers, people need a way to synchronize their data, especially if they can't always be connected to their home or office networks. That's where unified computing comes in. The first company to devise a way to integrate documents, emails, spreadsheets, media, passwords, bookmarks, and user settings into a system that can be accessed through local applications or the web will make a killing.
In the past (up to a few months) ago, there was a lot of buzz in the tech world about the "portal wars" between Yahoo, MSN, Excite, and a few others. The rise of Google and the solidification of Yahoo and MSN's business ended those wars. Excite and other sites like Webcrawler, Lycos, and Altavista were the biggest casualties. As big as the portal wars were compared to the earlier browser battle between Microsoft and Netscape, the battle for unified computing will be even bigger.
Google and Microsoft will certainly be competitors in this war for the user space, but there will be others as well. The next few years should be pretty interesting.