Net Applications caused a bit of a stir this week with a report that showed Microsoft's operating system share had dipped below 90 percent. This played very well where anti-Microsoft sentiment was strongest, not surprisingly.
Net Applications uses software sensors at 40,000 Web sites around the world to measure traffic and come up with its stats. These stats include operating system, browser, IP address, domain host, language, screen resolution, and a referring search engine, according to Vince Vizzaccaro, executive vice president of marketing and strategic alliances for Net Applications.
However, Net Applications noticed something unusual with stats from Google.com, which would represent Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) employees, not the public at large that use its search engine. Two-thirds of the visitors from Google.com did not hide what operating system they were running, which Net Applications recorded in its survey.
One-third, however, were unrecognized even though Net Applications' sensors can detect all major operating systems including most flavors of Unix and Linux. Even Microsoft's new Windows 7, which is deployed internally at Microsoft headquarters, would show up by its identifier string. But the Google operating systems were specifically blocked.
"We have never seen an OS stripped off the user agent string before," Vizzaccaro told InternetNews.com. "I believe you have to arrange to have that happen, it's not something we've seen before with a proxy server. All I can tell you is there's a good percentage of the people at Google showing up [at Web pages] with their OS hidden."
A proxy server shouldn't cause such a block because it would block everything, which Net Applications sees all the time. With the one-third obfuscated Google visitors, it was only the OS that was removed. Their browser, for example, was not hidden. And two-thirds of Google systems surfing the Web identified their OS, mostly Linux.
Internal deployment would make sense, as that's the best way to test an operating system or anything else under development. Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has Windows 7 deployed over certain parts of its Redmond campus, using its staff as testers by making them work with it daily. The company refers to this as "eating their own dogfood."
Google's secret OS?
So what's Google hiding? When asked, the company sent InternetNews.com a statement that it would not comment on rumor and speculation. But some Silicon Valley watchers think they know: the long-rumored software-as-a-service-oriented Google OS.
"I think they could be working on an application infrastructure, because an operating system really connotes the stuff that makes the hardware and software talk to each other, and they are not in that business," said Clay Ryder, president of The Sageza Group.