Why Google is in the Photoshop Business

Slashdot ran an article Wednesday on how Google has hired a team of developers to improve the performance of Photoshop running under emulation on Linux.

Why does Google care how well an Adobe product runs on Linux? Because Google knows that a Google OS, which would nearly certainly be based on Linux, must automatically, immediately run the entire panoply of everyday consumer software. Development progress on native, GUI-intensive consumer software for Linux has been—at best—slow but steady. Google knows that the existing library of Linux software certainly won’t cut it for a broad OS release to a non-geek consumer public. And they know that current Windows emulation software (“Wine”… published by the same firm Google hired to do the Photoshop gig) isn’t ready for prime time.

Why Photoshop? Because it’s a processor- and GUI-intensive consumer title which, if not being the key individual title needed for potential Google OS, will certainly cover a lot of ground for other titles which could run under the same emulator.

Why didn’t they use MS Word or Excel instead? Two reasons: first, neither of those titles regularly push PC processors toward the edge of their abilities. But also: Google doesn’t care whether their OS runs those titles because their OS distribution will come equipped with browsers; browsers with which consumers will be able to find their way online, to Google docs. The whole purpose of the Google OS may be to drive traffic to their online applications.

Is there a Microsoft-like anti-trust argument against Google owning the OS and the consumer software which run on it? It’s a weird situation because Google will only be distributing browsers, and those browsers won’t be Google, they’ll be Firefox (or whatever). Google’s apps won’t be distributed with the OS. The biggest anti-trust argument that can be made against Google in this scenario (and it’s a valid argument, in my opinion) will be that the Firefox which Google will distribute with its OS will be completely tricked-out for easy-access to Google apps… plenty of links, shortcuts, maybe even a toolbar. With a much-superior, tricked-out version of Wine available underneath, to run other high-end apps (e.g. Photoshop), they’ll have a pretty compelling alternative to Microsoft’s flopped Vista and out-dated XP.



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