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Google App Engine Goes Up Against Amazon, But That's Not the Point

Posted by: Rob Hof on April 07, 2008

Sure, Google App Engine, the service Google’s announcing tonight, looks pretty similar in concept, if not details, to the trio of Web services offers, including the EC2 computing engine, the S3 storage service, and the SimpleDB database product. Just like Amazon’s Web services, App Engine lets developers (for now) and companies (eventually) run their applications on Google’s computing infrastructure. So no doubt they’ll compete at some point.

But I think all the talk about how it’s a shot at Amazon misses most of the point. For one, the services are different when you get down into the weeds, as O’Reilly Radar’s Brady Forrest points out in a detailed post, and as heavy Amazon Web services user Don MacAskill at SmugMug confirms. Nate Westheimer at Silicon Alley Insider thinks it’s more of a shot at Facebook, in fact. Also, Amazon’s Web services business remains fairly small, if ultimately very significant.

So I don’t think Google really cares that much about trying to edge in on Amazon’s territory as much as it cares about having as many applications out there working on the Google cloud. That gives it not only good visibility into the kinds of applications people want and the problems it may need to overcome with them, but also a bird’s-eye view into the most promising new startups it might want to acquire. It’s pretty apparent that Google knows as well as anyone else that a lot of Web startups are going to be for sale as the economy sours even further, and Google is ready to snap up the ones that are most promising. So much the better if they’re already using Google technology.

Amazon’s interest in Web services, besides the small amount of money it will bring in for the foreseeable future, is a little different. It wants to enable startups to get going much more quickly and easily, as CEO Jeff Bezos explained in this exchange with me in late 2006, and that’s likely to help Amazon more than it hurts it:

Me: Enabling people to much more easily create new companies also creates more competitors for your competitors. Did you think about that?

Bezos: Absolutely! The fundamental point is, it’s going to happen, and if it’s going to happen, you might as well participate in it.

So yeah, Google and Amazon will be competing more closely than people today realize. But I think the competition will transcend these particular Web services.

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Reader Comments


April 8, 2008 01:23 PM

Not only is it easy for Google to find the next up-and-coming startup as early (and as cheaply) as possible. It also might hurt your valuation in general. I wrote more about that here:


April 8, 2008 02:57 PM

Well This Is My Opinion Google Is A Great Company!! Go G00gle!!

Peter Melnikov

April 8, 2008 03:52 PM

Google rocks. Very nice move! The rush started not only in USA but caught the attention worldwide. Here at MoveYourWeb (based in Eastern Europe - offshore outsourcing destination) we are working on several demo applications already and should ship in 1-3 days.

Harris Loeser

April 8, 2008 08:04 PM

The cloud is one place to put one's applications. We are finding that professional web 2.0 technicians like to have more control over their servers. While GoGrid is small compared to Google, our portal controlled servers are instantly deployable and scalable when the venture has roaring success. And GoGrid gives the system administrator full root and administrative access, instant load balancing on demand, static IPs. And we answer our phone...

Nilesh J

April 9, 2008 01:11 AM

Next Microsoft ,
Get ready for a next monopoly.
Great lockdown strategy by Google.

Reuven Cohen, CTO Enomaly Inc

April 9, 2008 09:41 AM

Very exciting move and a huge boost for the python community.

I'm still partial to Amazon for the time being.


April 10, 2008 09:57 AM

It's a very good start to the future of computing in a space that was previously only occupied by Like Reuven Cohen I'm partial to Amazon right now because it gives more control.

Google App Engine is clearly targeted at startups, not existing or corporate customers. Yes maybe the next Facebook.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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