I get asked this question a lot, so let's just get it out of the way. My favourite gadget of 2010? The new Amazon Kindle. Come this time next year, however, could it be a Google eReader?
If Google decides the follow the path laid down by this-is-how-you-do-it handset the Nexus One as well as the much rumoured Chrome OS smartbook then quite possibly. That said given the torturous route to market of Google's eBook store perhaps I'll be rehashing this editorial in December 2011. Let's stay positive though, because what has prompted all this talk is a statement this week from Google product management director Scott Dougall that the company is finally getting its eBook store plans together.
"Because of the complexity of this project, we didn't want to come out with something that wasn't thorough," Dougall explained to the Wall Street Journal adding that a revised timeframe would see 'Google Editions' launch in the US this month and internationally in Q1.
So what? There are plenty of eBook stores out there and yes it is Google, but why should we care?
In a nutshell, because eBooks may be the first media to let Google truly demonstrate its vision of *brace yourself, we're going to say it* Cloud Computing. Unlike music, video or apps – though Google continues to stab away at reasonably good mobile web apps for Gmail and Google Reader – eBooks are a truly viable Cloud media. Consequently the concept behind Google Editions is simple: give each user an eBook library tied to a Google account where all their eBooks are held in an open format which can be accessed on any device – from smartphone to PC or even via a web browser.
If this sounds similar to Amazon's cross platform approach with Kindle you'd be right, but where Google Editions differs is it won't simply be based around its own eBook store. Instead it will be partnership-based with Google doing deals with other retailers so, for example, you could buy an eBook from Waterstones or WHSmith and it would be integrated with your Google Editions library. Being Cloud-based it could well do away with the problem of competing eBook standards too, while users would no longer have to worry about getting trapped in any particular retailer's ecosystem… other than Google, of course.