With much sound and fury, the blogosphere and Twitter all respond to Google’s “bombshell” announcement that they’re launching Chrome OS sometime in the 2nd half of 2010 (which I might add is a long time from now). Already, folks who have never seen it, used it or spent five minutes with it are claiming it’s huge threat to Windows. (Oddly, if that’s the case, wouldn’t it also be a threat to Apple and Mac OS, an argument I’ve not seen but perhaps that’s another story).
While it’s early to be dismissive, this is far from a slam-dunk success. It feels more like another way Google is attempting to provoke Microsoft. Something, which Google seems to like to do with increased regularity. (Actually, it feels like Google likes to give Microsoft a smack on the side of the head with a sharp stick form time to time).
Launching a new PC OS is not easy even if your target is a cloud. Targeting netbooks in 2010 isn’t the answer either. As I’ve pointed out, netbooks are laptops with a pivotal axis of price. We’re seeing netbooks with 12″ screens, full sized keyboards and 300gb of storage. Does anyone think that netbooks aren’t going to evolve further? Consumers have overwhelmingly rejected Linux flavored netbooks for Windows capable machines that they could actually accomplish things on, such as run PC applications. It does kill the idea of Android on netbooks (which never really had much of a reason to exist and will no doubt confuse vendors on how they deal with Google).
Linux at the desktop is not a new idea and even with the power of Google behind it, it’s hard to see how it overcomes issues that have plagued desktop Linux for years. Even though Linux has come a long way in the last few years, it just hasn’t come far enough and Chrome won’t take it there. There are still too many issues with support for drivers. Sure, a pre-loaded netbook might solve part of that issue but the rate and pace of hardware has not abated and unless there’s a vendor out there willing to take a major gamble and build fully Chrome OS optimized systems, most users will simply not bother to the effort to make it all work.
Finally, there remains the issue of critical PC application support. The most notable for business is Microsoft Office. Yes, I know there are Office apps available for Linux but they just don’t cut it for mainstream use. But it’s not just Office. It’s apps like Photoshop, iTunes, things like the Sling Player and of course games.
There’s no doubt there’s interest in alternatives for a non-Microsoft offering at the desktop for business as well as for consumers. While Linux are notable and laudable, they just aren’t mainstream and Chrome shows no signs of being any different. In fact, Google’s entry into the market may actually hamper desktop adoption efforts by creating fragmentation and taking away needed development efforts for projects like Ubuntu.
Right now, this all about Google putting pressure on Microsoft at a time when MSFT would rather keep the market focus on Windows 7, not some upstart Linux platform. By creating of lot of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt this morning (after all, every PC runs web-apps really well and no one is looking for devices that web-based only for the most part). They hope to take the attention and luster off of Windows 7 and that’s exactly what they’re doing. In the meantime, show me the OS. Show me the apps. Show me the devices. In the meantime, there’s a lot of interesting stuff between now and the second-half of 2010 to write about it. In the meantime, the Chrome announcement is full of sound and fury but as Shakespeare said, it’s full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.