Is Google asking for antitrust?

Summary:Google has announced a new Chrome Operating System, designed for the web and with a browser baked directly into it — so much so that the entire OS is named after it. But the search giant should watch out: this decision seems designed to attract antitrust attention.

Google has announced a new Chrome Operating System, designed for the web and with a browser baked directly into it — so much so that the entire OS is named after it. But the search giant should watch out: this decision seems designed to attract antitrust attention.

Imagine the furore if Microsoft announced Internet Explorer OS. Antitrust naysayers would drop from the rafters for the chance to lay the boot into Microsoft. Things have got to such a point that the next version of Windows is planned to ship without a browser in Europe.

What's good for the goose is good for the gander. If Opera has a problem with IE on Windows, they are positively going to blow many a gasket when they see what Google has in store. I'd expect the Norwegian browser maker to be drawing up a complaint to the European Commission as we speak — lest they'd want to be known as hypocritical.

Don't think for a minute that Google has not thought this through and does not have a game plan. At this early stage, I'd wager that one of the prime motivators behind the open sourcing of Chrome OS is to precisely avoid such potential antitrust claims. The argument would go that OEMs have the option to take the source and replace the baked-in Chrome with Opera, Firefox or WebKit.

That's the theory, but in practice, would an OEM actually do this? The Microsoft experience has told us no. Why endanger compatibility with Chrome OS's applications? As they are going to be mostly web-based, and presumably rely on the V8 JavaScript engine to provide performance, only a fool would swap out the fastest browser on the web.

There comes a time when companies move from being darlings to devils. Microsoft was once the underdog taking on IBM, Google was then the champion that would slay Microsoft, but today's announcement moves Google into new territory and new regulatory scrutiny.

If Microsoft is chased with torches and pitchforks for bundling a browser into an operating system, shouldn't the mob go berserk when a company the size of Google attempts to make the browser the OS?

Topics: Google, Browser, Windows

About

Chris started his journalistic adventure in 2006 as the Editor of Builder AU after originally joining CBS as a programmer. After a Canadian sojourn, he returned in 2011 as the Editor of TechRepublic Australia, and is now the Australian Editor of ZDNet.

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