Since at least the early 1990s, the proverbial pendulum swings between some form of central services / thin client computing and distributed / peer-to-peer / grid computing. The pendulum is still swinging. Molly Wood's article on Google's strategic intent suggests server / thin client computing is where the G folks are heading as a way of directly challenging Microsoft for the hearts and minds of computer users. Here's her major point:
Everyone seems to agree that Google's showing signs of building some sort of operating system. One of Microsoft's key Windows architects, Marc Lucovsky, recently defected to Google, and so far, his duties at Google haven't been detailed. Google's also been rapidly expanding onto the desktop--Google Desktop is the company's only other Google-developed product that's not in beta. They've acquired the photo-organizing software Picasa, along with the 3D mapping software Keyhole. There's e-mail client extraordinaire Gmail and Google Deskbar, which lets you search for and display Google results without opening a browser (a first step toward rendering IE, Firefox, Netscape, Opera, and company obsolete?). Meanwhile, a walk through Google Labs shows you personalized search projects, mobile solutions such as Google SMS and Froogle Wireless, and, of course, Google Maps.