July 8, 2009
Some Thoughts on the Google Chrome OS Announcement
The announcement by Google of the Chrome OS penetrated well beyond the tech press into the mainstream. The news penetrated the stock market as well. Google was up and Microsoft was down. This is a development that catches the attention of a general public that considers Microsoft and Windows as synonymous. Microsoft has a lot of products out there, but let's face it: Windows and Office are the public face of Microsoft. Maybe search will join that duo in a few years, but it will be a long hard crawl for Bing to get past also-ran respectability. Google challenged Microsoft Office with Google Apps and made minor dents in the franchise, but only enough to annoy Microsoft in a way that Star Office and Open Office could not. It didn't help Microsoft that Google's alternative was strictly online. Microsoft talked a good line about software as service, but just try porting every feature of Word to web access. Now try the same thing and maintain the same revenue stream. As long as Google Apps are a minor annoyance, the franchise is safe.
Now Google is attacking Microsoft where it lives. Will Google be successful? The company has a better chance than the alternatives for no other reason than it is a known quantity among consumers. Note that Apple's share of the OS market is small in comparison to Microsoft. That's because Apple wants to control the entire computing experience by keeping the OS tied to Apple machines. Not so with Google's OS. Google is aiming it for x86 and ARM chips. Netbooks in particular are the target. These are small, not very powerful machines that can still run Internet access quite well. Does processing power matter so much if applications are web based? It may to Microsoft who is trying to leverage the netbook platform as if it were an embarrassing family member. First was the the lame attempt to limit the number of applications Windows 7 could run at one time on a netbook to three. Netbooks would only be licensed to run the Windows 7 Starter Edition requiring an upgrade by the consumer to the full, unencumbered, OS. That fell by the wayside. Now the limits are on appearances and other little things, with consumers not able to customize the desktop.
Google is a viable alternative in that market. The Google desktop OS is based on Linux which is popular with the tech crowd but not with mainstream consumers. Every tech article I've ever read on Linux praises Ubuntu, as an example, for stability, installation, ease of use and more. There is a strong thread through these articles and comments attached thereto that Ubuntu could be a serious challenger to the Windows desktop. I've always felt that this notion is wrong, if for no other reason than consumers like to be hand-held when it comes to tech problems. Hardly anyone has to understand Windows to use and install it. Give that one to Microsoft. Windows is a standard whether tech support comes from Microsoft, Dell, HP, or someone else.
Google adds something to the Windows alternative that the Linux community never had (and likely never will), which is a mainstream customer support for non-tech customers. I'm assuming that will be in place because the OS will never succeed without centralized control over features and a support structure. Both are essential for mainstream acceptance.
Microsoft will fight back, of course. Expect to see more advertising for Windows 7 and Office than ever before. A more scary possibility is Microsoft asserting the alleged 200+ patent violations claimed in Linux. It's one thing to try and sue a band of rebels scattered throughout the galaxy (if the Star Wars analogy fits). It is quite another to sue a fierce competitor who is undercutting your main source of revenue. This development has the potential to get very interesting very quickly.
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In my opinion, Google is hardly competing with Microsoft here. Actually, in my personal view, they are trying to keep Microsoft wondering and busy trying to compete with Google in a front it doesn't really needs to. They are creating a fake competition that, in the end, will benefit Google even if Chrome OS fails.
Posted by: Cesar | Jul 22, 2009 1:14:34 PM