Could Chrome OS revive slumping netbook numbers?

Summary:Google's new Chrome operating system will be out later this year. With XP in decline, has the netbook playing field opened up to increase success in the neglected device range?

The student market is not exactly flush with netbook users, while others agree that the entire netbook market barely took off in the first place. But with Google's Chrome OS due for 'hardware release' and thus wide general availability later this year, this could turn the now device-in-decline into the next big thing.

There is almost no doubt in my mind, to the point where if I were a betting man I would place a large quantity of my savings on this, that Windows will never be overtaken until Microsoft ceases to produce newer versions of the operating system.

Though, avid users of the Android mobile operating system with hopes that it will be ported to the desktop will be disappointed, as Google's vice-president of product management, Sundar Pichai, states that Android and Chrome are "two separate operating systems" with Android firmly in the mobile market.

The vast majority of today's students can identify only two desktop operating systems: Windows and Mac, and Google will have one hell of a time to dent that already firm impression. Many are still unaware that Android has anything to do with Google, giving the company a difficult typecast to break through.

However two major upsides to the declining netbook figures is that, as sales continue to decline the cheaper they will become - which is already very cheap for the main benefit of day-long battery life, but also that Chrome OS is open-source and therefore free and at no additional cost to the user; a vital characteristic for often cash stripped students.

Google's focus is on netbooks at the moment, though today's announcement shows that Chrome OS will not be mutually exclusive to the netbook market but notebooks and fully-fledged laptops, perhaps desktops also.

But Windows XP takes up a huge portion of netbook operating systems. Microsoft will cut off buying the ageing operating system for downgrade in 2011 to make way for Windows 7's prominence, which will no doubt overshadow the release of Chrome OS. The sooner XP is out of the picture, that is when Google can make their move and attempt to take the netbook market by storm.

Though, netbook users will know full right that Vista on a netbook is like throwing mud into a Formula 1 engine. Windows 7 makes up for Vista's memory-hogging and bloatedness, but XP still rightfully takes precedent.

All Google has to do is now convince the student market that their Google Chrome OS is suitable and compatible with their lifestyle. Search, I can understand. Apps, which include email and collaboration access, may not be such an incentive seeing as Microsoft is snapping up more of its demographic by the minute.

I doubt whether Google can make Chrome OS a viable replacement for this albeit growing online subculture, but with Windows XP out of the way it is a level playing field for anyone wanting to take a share.

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Operating Systems

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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