Google's looming patent hammer in the cloud

Judging from a recent patent application, Google appears to have a technology lead in cloud computing. Will the patent also give it a legal club?

Matt Asay Contributing Writer
Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.
Matt Asay

According to SYS-CON, Google's cloud computing patent portfolio, and specifically its patent application for "Encoding and Adaptive, Scalable Accessing of Distributed Models", gives it a "multi-year lead in cloud computing." Could it also give it a club to pummel would-be competitors?

As SYS-CON's Stephen Arnold suggests:

Google can, with the deployment of software, deliver global services that other companies cannot match in terms of speed of deployment, operation, and enhancement...(T)his patent document is an indication that Google can put its foot on the gas pedal at any time and operate in a dimension that other companies cannot.

This is great for Google, and is exactly how competition should work: on the strength of customer value and vendor agility.

However, what Arnold doesn't cover, but which is potentially more momentous in the patent filing, is how Google plans to use its cloud patents against competitors. Some cloud-related Google patents, like the one for a floating data center, are probably not going to inhibit innovation by others. But this one just might, as it goes to the heart of wringing performance out of the cloud.

Google has been a fairly benevolent steward of its intellectual property thus far, and let's hope that continues. But if Google has the opportunity to squash Microsoft's cloud efforts even as Microsoft seeks to head off threats from Google's forays into "desktop" applications, I'm not sure I'd be betting on benevolence.