I know Google could change their mind again, but it seems that Gmail is finally open to everyone.
If you don't live in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and Japan (Gmail is already open there), go to gmail.com and see if you can create a new account.
In looking at Google's public technology discussions, it appears that a thin client, distributed computing future is exactly what they are expecting.
Google has created and continues to expand huge datacenters around the world. From whats been written, they contain tens, if not hundreds of thousands of processors all clustered and networked together. They are connected to each other via fiber, and are in turn connected by dark and lit fiber to every and any internet peering point they possibly can.
Its a critical distinction that they only have fiber to peering points rather than having direct access to homes. First, in a world with net neutrality, it means Google has the fastest access to common points connecting to the last mile than anyone else. More importantly, it throttles how much bandwidth they can deliver to the home. You can lead a 10mbs stream to a peering point, but you can't make the ISP drink it. Sure it will pass through, but there are no quality of service requirements at that peering point. Google can put some beautiful HD content out on their servers, and it will be perfect.. until it gets to the peering points, at which point it loses all its priority and becomes just another packet. Which is the downside of net neutrality. Google can't buy their way to having their packets given priority, so those who expect big bandwidth video to the home from Google Video… as both Google and I mentioned in this post, it aint gonna happen the way things stand today.
That said, Google is in a unique position with their datacenters and infrastructure to dominate thin client computing and everything they are doing seems to point in that direction..