Modern computer software is supposed to make your life easier, but all too often it just makes things more complicated.

For one thing, having got some software working on your computer, you usually have to keep it up-to-date. This is a task in itself, and is rarely as easy as it ought to be.

There are a handful of applications around that update themselves, silently and quietly in the background, with no additional input required.

But the vast majority of computer software has to be updated manually, forcing the user to visit a website, download the right file, and install it themselves.

When you've got a whole batch of software to deal with, this soon becomes a particularly tiresome chore.

And that, so the story goes, is what inspired the guys at Google to create their latest innovation: Google Pack (

This bundle of free software is designed to be downloaded and installed in one go. It includes a series of things that Google had already made available separately (the Picasa photo manager, Google Desktop, Google Earth, and a bunch of other free apps) with one useful addition: Google Updater, a new app that keeps an eye on all the others.

When any of them are updated online, it does the work of updating your copy. You don't have to do a thing.

While combining all these applications together is undoubtedly a smart move, this is not quite the radical software move that some observers had been predicting.

For one thing, there's not much in Google Pack that's new. For another, there's not much in it that's absolutely vital.

A photo manager like Picasa is a nice thing to have around, if you happen to have a digital camera.

Google Earth is one of the most fun things you can do with a broadband internet connection, but that's all it is - a bit of fun.

Perhaps this initial release of Google Pack isn't intended to be an essential download

for everyone: key to Pack's success will be the central code that keeps an eye on all the other applications and checks they are current.

It's called Google Updater, and unless you manually uninstall it, it will continue to check in with Google every now and then to see if anything new is available.

Look at that another way, and the Google Updater becomes Google's little doorway into your computer. By downloading and installing the Pack, you grant Google the right to come knocking on the door with more offers in the future.

And who knows what they might be.

In effect, this first release of Pack is about the establishment of Google's own software distribution network.

Google is lined up for a lengthy battle with the other giants of online services, Microsoft, Apple, and Yahoo. By getting Pack installed on to as many computers as possible now, it opens up the possibility of lining up the owners of those machines as future customers for more software and services.