Google fibre Is The Most Disruptive Thing The Company's Done Since Gmail

Larry Page smile

Photo: AP

Remember how blown away people were when Gmail launched in 2004?Google fibre feels like the same leap of innovation. It’s been a long time since we saw anything like this from the search and advertising giant.

Back when Gmail launched, the other free email providers like Hotmail and Yahoo Mail were offering less than 5MB of storage — that’s five megabytes. Google trumped them all with 1GB of free storage. With so much storage, there was no need to trash anything. You could archive it and keep it forever.

Better yet, Gmail’s search meant you could easily find any email you wanted, even from years ago. There was no reason to put things into different folders, use flags, or any of the other tricks we used to keep track of mail on other platforms. Threaded conversations, while hated by some, were nonetheless a new and innovative way of keeping track of email chains with multiple parties. 

broadband vs compute vs storage

Photo: Google

Gmail also paved the way for Google’s gradual move into business apps — most Google enterprise sales still lead with Gmail. Apps is more of a nice but not entirely necessary add-on.

Google fibre is like Gmail on many levels:

  • It exposes how slow the incumbents have been to innovate. Google fibre makes the cable-based ISPs look pathetic. It promises to offer speeds up to 1,000Mbps downstream and upstream, for only $70 a month. That’s theoretically fast enough to download a high-definition movie in under a minute, although speeds could still be constrained by bottlenecks on the distribution servers or elsewhere in the network. Comcast’s best home package offers 50Mbps downstream and 10Mbps downstream. All Google fibre customers also get 1TB of free storage. If they buy TV service for an extra $50 a month, Google will throw in a $200 Nexus 7 tablet to be used as a remote control. Google is also giving away — for free — a package that offers 5Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream. Google even thumbed its nose at the incumbents with a slide showing how slowly Internet access speed has been growing compared with compute power and storage (see above) — which is exactly what one would expect to happen given the lack of competition most broadband ISPs face in most parts of the country. 
  • Google used its hardware expertise. Google was able to get prices so low, in part, because it designed and built all the hardware for the system itself. This is a good reminder that although Google wasn’t a consumer electronics company until recently, Google has actually been designing hardware for its data centres for more than a decade. It was this data centre efficiency that allowed Gmail to offer way more free storage than competitors back in 2004.
  • It paves the way for new business areas. For Google, the main business purpose of fibre is to give people faster Internet access, so they’ll spend more time online — where they’re more likely to use a Google product and click a Google-sold ad. But just like Gmail unlocked an enterprise business, fibre could unlock a whole new business as an ISP and TV provider. This isn’t a loss leader — Google CFO Patrick Pichette said yesterday that Google intends to make money on it. 

This is what Google products used to be like before they started chasing Facebook with one social experiment after another.

It had been a long time since Google blew me away with any of their new. Yesterday, they did.

Now, we just need Google to roll out fibre to the rest of the country.

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