Google web expansion set to rile rivals

Google announced ambitious web expansion plans on Wednesday, involving video, an application store and cloud computing in moves likely to antagonise further its rivals.

The Silicon Valley company said that its YouTube subsidiary had begun to convert its entire catalogue over to WebM, a new video standard it hoped would be adopted across the web.

WebM incorporates a codec – video compression software that enables the transmission of smooth, high-quality pictures – called VP8, acquired when Google last year bought On2, a video technology company, for $106m.

Google said that it was contributing VP8 royalty-free to WebM so it would be a free and open standard. Up to now, web video has been dominated by Adobe’s Flash technology and the H.264 standard, supported by Apple.

Google made the announcement at its annual developer conference in San Francisco, where it said it was celebrating the web as the platform of choice for software development.

That statement may annoy Microsoft, whose Windows operating system has historically been the platform of choice.

To push its point, Google also announced the Chrome Web Store, an open marketplace for web “apps” to be sold by developers and added by users to a desktop page in Google’s Chrome browser. Chrome is also being developed as an operating system by Google.

The concept rivals Intel’s AppUp store aimed at netbooks and could be seized on by tablet device makers as a means to compete with Apple’s iPad and App Store.

Google said it had more than 70m active users of the Chrome browser, up from 30m a year earlier.

Vic Gundotra, engineering vice-president of Google, told a news conference the web was ready for enterprise-class development, referring to the launch of its App Engine for Business and a collaboration with software company VMware on a “new operating system for the cloud” – applications hosted remotely in data centres.

The App Engine for Business will allow companies to build and maintain their own applications to run on Google’s web infrastructure “in the cloud”. Google promised simple pricing, a 99.9 per cent uptime service level agreement and, later this year, cloud-based database and secure transaction services. The move will rival Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and other cloud technology companies.

“[Google] doesn’t have the trust of enterprise, that takes a while,” commented David Smith, cloud computing analyst with the Gartner research firm.

“Part of [the VMware collaboration] is they want to be able to sell their App Engine stuff that runs underneath, plus they say it’s good for the web, which they say all the time.”

Mr Gundotra said any increase in web usage helped Google’s business model – nearly all of its revenues still come from web advertising, although its Google Apps offering of applications for businesses is growing in size.

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