This idea came to me while thinking about Microsoft’s Silverlight: Google has nothing comparable available, and it is unlikely that Google could place a new system all by its own. The only competing software available would be Flash.
Up until Silverlight, Microsoft attacked Google simply by offering similar services as Google does: a search machine, a cool online e-mail system, etc. However, fighting this way would mean to win by better technology and better support. This is a new field for MS since they usually win by spreading the monopoly.
Recently Microsoft brought in a new warrior: Silverlight. Silverlight is comparable to Flash, and is targeted at bringing down the current monopoly of Flash. With this technology, MS can go the usual way: Silverlight will be bundled tightly to the operating system and all offered MS web services, and therefore will be spread – no matter how good the quality or the technique behind is. Add here the possibility that some very prominent pages using Flash today might switch over to Silverlight when MS makes special offers (think of GoDaddy here), and you see that Flash will have to fight for its survival soon.
Now, let’s have a look at Google: Google has nothing comparable to Flash or Silverlight. Actually, pages like youtube depend heavily on Flash to deliver their content. Sure, many things can be done by AJAX, but media streaming is an area where Flash comes in very handy.
As long as Flash was the only available solution and was owned by a third party company which was not fighting in the same field as Google, this was ok for Google. But now Silverlight came up – and Flash’s monopoly is blown away (whether Flash will fall totally or will just have to give up significant market share). And Google can do nothing then watching Flash’s fight.
Also, Google cannot introduce something like Silverlight, because it has no handy monopoly to spread it. Sure, a number of people would actually download and install it, but the large majority of the users would not (think of Firefox here). Also, it is a chicken and egg problem for Google, while Microsoft just has to wait until all computers got Silverlight through the automatic updates.
Out of these reasons it would be reasonable for Google to buy Flash.
Of course this is unlikely to happen: since Adobe bought Macromedia, Adobe tries to get a grip in the world of rich internet applications. The strategy is to deliver everything a creative mind needs – and today this also means web applications created by designers or professional creative minds.
Therefore, it is of course unlikely that Google could buy Flash because Adobe needs it itself.
The only solutions I see atm are that Adobe and Google would team up to support Flash, for example in a quite open development environment. An idea would be to submit it as a ISO standard or similar. But I haven’t heard anything like that yet.
Of course it could also be that Silverlight becomes the open and free standard the internet waited for (Flash isn’t open), that MS would – this time – not use it to expand and spread its monopoly. Well, hope is the greatest treasure…