Google Cloud Now on Tap for Web Developers

Google, with its new Application Engine product, has taken aim squarely at the web services market — and companies from to Bungee Labs should be running scared. The search giant’s Application Engine allows developers to build a web application “in their garage” and then host it for free on Google’s existing infrastructure. Take that, Jeff Bezos!

The App Engine will run in the same Google data centers that host GMail, Google Docs and other online programs. Initially up to 10,000 developers will have access to the preview edition of App Engine. Every developer will be able build up to three applications, each of which will have 500 MB of storage and the CPU cycles and bandwidth to support about 5 million page views a month. All of this will be free, and when the service is out of preview Google will announce the ability to buy more storage, bandwidth and CPU cycles.

For some developers, a service like this eliminates the need for Amazon Web Services. It could also cause problems for startups such as online storage company Elephant Drive and platform-as-service vendors such as Bungee Labs. However, the App Engine does have its limits, some of which will be addressed as time goes on. For now, no files larger than 1MB can be uploaded to the site and Python is the only language supported by App Engine. Other limits include the inability to buy extra time and a focus only on web applications.

Even with limits, this is exactly the type of service Dave Winer last week, after a conversation with a pig, predicted. This type of loss-leader service gets startups in the door with Google, giving the company access to the freshest ideas and an entrepreneurial talent pool that it can tap. Kevin Kelleher called it the way Google can eat Amazon’s lunch.

He’s right, but it will come at a cost to Google in terms of its margins. Providing that kind of infrastructure isn’t free. It also will have a ways to go before it can compete with the 330,000 developers Amazon says are using its Web Services as of January.

Still, it’s a start. And it puts the competition on notice. There’s also the potential for Google to use this as an home base for its other development platforms, such as Open Social for social networks or Android for the mobile phone. A place where developers could build applications that could work anywhere would be the holy grail.