Information on Google Pack already went live briefly on Google earlier today, but now the software bundling and updating system has been formally announced. It pulls together popular Google software applications along with those from other providers.
The genesis for the pack, said Google vice president of search products and user experience Marissa Mayer, was the frustration of Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin having to track down and register software for computers they were setting up a year ago.
"They spent all afternoon setting them up. Hundreds of clicks and license agreements later, they had it the way they wanted," Mayer said.
OK, skip past the idea that the duo should just be able to snap their fingers and have someone configure their computers for them. I can understand the frustration. I've had to bring up three computers from a "clean" state this year and have my own list of essential tools and software that I always have to put on. So the idea of a magical way for Google to do this for me? Nice!
Does it work? I haven't had a chance to actually test it yet, since I was briefed about the system earlier this week, before the software was live. However, I've got a newly repaired laptop that I'm going to give it a go on in a few days.
One downside is that you can't add software not already on the Google Pack list. I despise Norton AntiVirus after being a long-time user who tired of its bugginess. But that's the antivirus package of choice in what Google is offering.
Of course, you don't have to choose to install any particular component. Google's just giving you a menu, and ala carte is fine. Here's what's on the table:
- Adobe Reader 7
- Ad-Aware SE Personal
- GalleryPlayer HD Images
- Google Desktop
- Google Earth
- Google Pack Screensaver
- Google Picasa Photo Organizer/Editor
- Google Talk
- Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer
- Google Video player
- Mozilla Firefox with Google Toolbar
- Norton AntiVirus 2005 Special Edition
To get any of these, you download the Google Updater, a small 300K or so file. It then starts downloading piece of the pack that you choose, getting the smallest apps first. If you have any of the existing apps already installed, Google Updater won't overwrite them. However, it will offer to upgrade them if they are out of date.
So who gets to be on the list -- the companies that paid the most? Mayer was adamant that selections were made based on their "best of class" consideration by the team at Google.
"None of these companies paid us to be in the pack, nor do we pay them to be in the pack. We do have existing business relationships with these companies, but because we wanted to evaluate these on their merits, we kept those secluded [from the Google Pack development team”," Mayer said.
Real is one of those existing relationship, with a deal dating from 2004 to put the Google Toolbar with RealPlayer. Adobe is a funny one, however. Adobe already has a partnership with Yahoo to include a cobranded Yahoo Search toolbar within copies of reader that Adobe hands out. Will the Adobe Reader that Google is distributing have the Yahoo Toolbar! Nope, Mayer said -- Yahoo's deal doesn't mean that all Reader distributions must carry Yahoo's toolbar.
Two programs from Google are new. The Google Video Player is described more here. The Google Pack Screensaver lets you use existing photos on your computer as a screensaver, something Google says they've seen demand for.
Trillian is a funny inclusion. At the moment, the basic version of Trillian (which I use and love) won't talk with Google Talk. Instead, I believe it's the Pro version you need to use to interact with Google Talk. Regardless, having to give out two IM clients rather their own single client that can interact with all other major clients in the way Trillian can seems odd. But Mayer said when asked about this that Google wanted to include best of class software, and I certainly agree with the choice on Trillian.
But why not add in something like ZoneAlarm, which I love and can do what Ad-Aware and Norton can, if you step up to the pro version. Sure, every program is free, but in the case of Norton, that "free" ends after six months when the virus updates expire.
"We welcome the idea of adding more applications to the pack," Mayer said. Google would consider adding other tools if they were deemed best of class. Not all tools might be default choices for download, but they could be made choose-and-pick options.
So what's any of this have to do with search? Nothing, really. It will certainly be attractive to some users and get them making more use of Google products, especially if the idea of tapping into an install friendly pack takes off. It's just another type of distribution that's Google's progressing with.
"We're increasingly interested in distributing software," Mayer said, referencing the recent Lexar USB stick deal. "Our primary interest in the pack is making it easier for people to use their computers. If they use it more, use the internet more and search more, then some of the applications in the Google Pack like the Google Toolbar do a nice job monetizing themselves."
FYI, some other bundling deals include an arrangement with Sun for distribution of the Google Toolbar, a bundling deal with WinZip to distribute the Google Toolbar and Google Desktop and a similar one with InterVideo.
One downside to the new Google Pack. It doesn't remember your preferences. If you set up a suite of software on your computer, then need to bring up an entirely new computer, there's no way to save a profile of the programs you like. Hopefully, something like that will come in the future.