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Google PC back on the front burner?

People have pondered the possibility of Google coming out with a home-PC-like device for months. The rumors first surfaced last year when John Kish, CEO of thin-client maker Wyse, said his company was talking with Google.

On Wednesday, Allen Delattre, global managing director of the electronics and high-tech industry practice at Accenture, said during a brief conversation that "it is only a matter of time" before Google comes out with a home device.

Why? For one thing, such a home device, especially if it doesn't come with Microsoft software or other applications, will be cheap to manufacture and buy. Google could also cut support cost by developing online support tools. Most support calls aren't hardware-related anyway, so automating customer service or handling it through the Web should be possible.

More important, the company is increasingly rolling out services that could be promoted by a home device. The device would essentially let consumers hook into the Internet and would be populated with applications developed by Google, such as Gmail and the calendar applications. Naturally, there would be easy links to services such as Google's video store.

On the other hand, the tech graveyards are full of PC-like devices (Audrey, eVilla, the JavaStation, etc.) that never took off.

Delattre, by the way, is fairly well-connected. He speaks at a lot of conferences and, by virtue of his position, consults frequently with the who's who of the tech industry. His job basically is to observe trends. Last year, he told us how some companies are ditching notebooks for BlackBerry handhelds.

Although a software company, Google is no stranger to hardware. It has emerged as one of the largest server manufacturers in the world. Granted, Google consumes most of its own servers, but it's one of the biggest customers in the world. Taiwanese contract manufacturers actually build Google's servers, but the Mountain View, Calif.-based search giant actually participates in the design of the boxes. One of the innovations: The hard drive is fastened to the chassis with Velcro for an easy swap-out. (I once tried to do a story on how Google designs its servers, but the company clammed up and treated me like I had rickets.)

Search engines have had influence on servers before. Yahoo helped popularize the 1U (1.75 inches high) server when it was emerging.