Can Google succeed outside of search?

Everywhere you turn, it seems Google has a new offering. But how serious are these attempts to own your computer?

Google is rich, with a market cap of $183 billion — that’s billion with a “b” — already 71 percent the value of its much more established archrival Microsoft. With those resources, Google has created more and more software products in an attempt to build a sustainable business outside of the search-based ads that account for most of its revenue — and be the center of your computing universe.For several years, Google seemed to be focused on Web-based collaboration tools, with its service and acqusition of JotSpot (now called Google Wave) as prime examples. But more recently, Google has moved into the cloud business, producing one product after another in a pattern that shows clearly a desire to replace the desktop paradigm — which has Microsoft’s Windows and Microsoft Office at its core. Google has designs to replace the desktop with the cloud, and Microsoft with itself.

The forthcoming Google Chrome OS is the baldest statement of that mission, redefining a laptop into a Net appliance that relies almost entirely on the cloud for the apps people would use routinely. But that’s just the latest salvo. Google has already launched its Google Apps set of services, which are starting to be taken seriously even by large companies and government agencies to handle e-mail, word processing, and more. Microsoft has responded to this direct strike at its business with its cloud/desktop hybrid version of Office, the forthcoming Office 2010 Web Apps. But Google keeps pushing: Its still-in-beta Google Wave promises to attack one of Microsoft’s most beloved products, its SharePoint collaboration software.

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