Google Aligning Its Stars And Its Applications

Earlier this week, Google announced that they were adding the ability to “star” search results. This was added and SearchWiki was removed from the search results so that there was not duplicate functionality. The basic idea is that people like the concept of saving good search results, but really could not be bothered with changing the ordering of the results. However, stars on search results are more integrated with the overall Google experience:

You don’t even have to remember whether or not you starred something. Simply perform a search and you’ll rediscover your starred items right when you need them. Stars sync with your Google Bookmarks and the Google Toolbar, so you can always see your list of starred items in one place and easily organize them. Even beyond the results page, while browsing the web you can quickly click the star icon in Toolbar to create a bookmark, and those pages will start showing up in the new stars feature.

This is a really interesting feature because you can quickly bookmark some search results, in Google Bookmarks of course. Then you can “star” any page on the web from Google Toolbar to bookmark that page. This little tidbit hidden in the search results announcement triggered an interesting thought.

Also, there were some interesting comments captured by various tech blogs, and summarily beaten to death, by a Google director regarding the future of the desktop PC:

Speaking at the Digital Landscapes conference at UCD, European director of Google’s online sales John Herlihy said that Google is mostly oriented towards mobile devices, claiming they’ll become more important than desktop PCs. “In three years time, desktops will be irrelevant. In Japan, most research is done today on smart phones, not PCs,” he said.

First, let me state that I read this quote differently than most people. He is not announcing the death of the desktop PC. He is stating that they will be irrelevant in a few years because of the rise of smarter mobile devices. The key here is that the mobile industry will be growing rapidly, and there is a lot of revenue to be won. On the desktop PC, revenue is traditionally flat because people are moving some applications to the web or they are moving to more portable devices. For an internet company like Google, the desktop PC may already be irrelevant to their revenue streams.

As things become more mobile, more data and more applications move to the web. Google has slowly been building a web application empire with things like GMail, Google Reader, and Google Docs. One of the problems they are having is the inconsistency of each interface. GMail has stars for important items, search results were personalized but used the search wiki concept, and Google Docs really looked like nothing else for a while. Slowly, all of these interfaces are starting to converge. Stars for important items are used in GMail, Reader, Buzz and now Google Bookmarks.

Google has started learning something. If they really want to be your only online resource, they have to provide the majority of your web experience. Wave has the same problem right now. It is a completely separate application that was far too  much change at one time for even early adopters to adapt to. I have said previously that Buzz is a baby step in the direction of Wave, and now Wave will send email notifications. Is this a step for Wave towards a more Buzz-like experience? Again, these applications will likely converge into one basic interface in order to make it simpler for people to use them.

Google has started aligning all of their applications to be more of a unified Google experience. So, don’t be surprised when we see a bunch of these smaller updates to applications. We will see little tweaks in many, so that they slowly converge. You may not even notice it happening, until you realize one day that you spend most of your time on Google applications. Has it already happened? Or are we slowly seeing the evolution of the Google web operating system?

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