Google Taps Lexar in Application Distribution Deal

Google is teaming up with digital media technology provider Lexar Media to offer USB flash drives with popular Web applications.

Lexar said yesterday it would bring Google applications, including Picasa, Google Toolbar and Google Desktop Search applications on its USB flash drives.

The company said this marks the first time consumers will be able to install Google applications from a USB flash drive directly to their desktop to edit photos, find files and search the Web using Google applications.

“While these popular applications have traditionally been available on the Web directly from Google and other Web affiliates, offering them on a Lexar JumpDrive provides a new channel to reach customers,” said Steffen Hellmold, vice president of USB flash drives at Lexar.

Who Wins?

Hellmold said taking Web-based applications from Google and making them available on the Lexar JumpDrive line is appealing to retailers and is very valuable to consumers worldwide. Could this really be a win-win-win-win for Lexar, Google, retailers, and consumers?

Enderle Group Principal Analyst Rob Enderle told TechNewsWorld that Google is using a derivative of AOL’s “take every opportunity to get product into consumers’ hands” philosophy.

“We are outside the realm of giving everybody a CD or a floppy drive as a gift. So one of the most popular ways to distribute software are through these flash drives,” Enderle said. “It doesn’t cost Lexar or Google anything to do it, and it adds a little extra something for nothing for the customer, which can be a differentiator.”

Google Jumps At Opportunity

Here’s how it works: Customers who purchase a Lexar JumpDrive plug the device into the USB port on their computer. Then the user will be prompted with instructions to install the free applications. If the user accepts installation, Google products automatically install to his or her computer and are then removed from the USB flash drive.

“We’re excited to make it possible for people to easily search the documents, photos, music and video they store on their Lexar JumpDrives and computer hard drives as well as to find information on the Internet,” said Marissa Mayer, Google’s Vice President, Search Products & User Experience.

Lexar JumpDrive products with Google applications will be available worldwide beginning in January 2006.

Pervasive Google?

Evan Roberts, director of advertising for Labitat, a Web 2.0 startup focused on niche market data mining and analysis, told TechNewsWorld he thinks it’s amazing that Lexar can fit such a powerful application on a small device with limited file size and power.

“It also makes me wonder where the boundaries are for the application of search,” Roberts said. “While it maybe useful to find information on large size flash drives with lots of files, I think it pushes the envelope on being pervasive.”

Risk Versus Reward

Analysts said there is not much of a risk for Google, but there could be a risk for Lexar. One drawback is hosting Google software with bugs and support issues. That, Enderle said, could reflect poorly on the parent product. But there is yet another, more complicated risk with these ventures: potential abuse.

“If it was discovered that there was a piece of spyware, keylogger or a rootkit in the software package, that could be a serious problem,” Enderle said. “With Sony/BMG doing that kind of thing, and now some indication that there may be other firms doing it, clearly as a manufacturer you want to make sure you understand what any software that’s going on your product does because any resultant litigation will hit you both.”

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