Is there anyone within shouting distance of a Wi-Fi connection who doesn’t already know that Google is taking over the universe? Maybe not. Even so, you’d think a few more headlines would have heralded the recent news that Google has launched its own Excel-compatible spreadsheet application, Google Spreadsheets (spreadsheets.google.com). OK, so nobody gets excited about spreadsheets nowadays, but let’s not forget that this humble workhorse of the business world was once the awesome program that turned personal computing from a geeky curiosity into an everyday necessity. And more important, note that Google’s incursion into this historic little corner of the digital realm puts the final missing piece into its arsenal of online Microsoft-killer apps. Between Gmail, Google Calendar, the Writely online word processor (assimilated by the Borgle back in March), and now Spreadsheets, Google currently rivals the Office suite on every front but PowerPoint—and the Web itself was already doing that nicely anyhow, in case you hadn’t noticed.
Add in Google Maps, Google Talk, Google Earth, and the world-crushing search-engine hegemony that is Google’s power base, and you get a domination of the networked info-space that’s every bit as awesome as Microsoft’s enduring domination of the desktop. So why isn’t this the nailbiting news the Microsoft monopoly once was? Search me. “Don’t be evil” is a nice corporate motto, but it’s no substitute for an antitrust judgment. And even if the Google suite’s organic webbiness gives it a healthy, communitarian glow—a thrilling aura of online collaboration and socialized cognition—there’s only so many shareable comic-book-collection databases you can compile before the mutual surveillance, mobocratic tastemaking, and other creepier aspects of the Web 2.0 paradigm start to sink in. No, mark my words: Five years from now you’ll barely remember why Microsoft mattered, and Google will be the digital empire you love to hate and hate to leave.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 20, 2006