With the Chrome OS, Google's software stack is revealed; Shrapnel everywhere

With the Chrome OS, Google's software stack is revealed; Shrapnel everywhere

Summary: Google is planning to launch lightweight operating system dubbed the Chrome OS that'll target netbooks and Web apps. With the move---clearly targeted at Microsoft---Google's software stack has come into sharp focus in just the last 24 hours.


Google is planning to launch lightweight operating system dubbed the Chrome OS that'll target netbooks and Web apps. With the move---clearly targeted at Microsoft---Google's software stack has come into sharp focus in just the last 24 hours. It should be noted, however, that Google's stack is still being formed.

Let's be clear: Every tech vendor wants to sell you a stack of stuff. Microsoft's stack is the best known and includes Windows, Office, Exchange, Sharepoint, Dynamics and other items. SAP has its stack encompassing every business process you can think of. Oracle will sell you everything from the database up to the middleware and apps. IBM has its middleware stack that rides shotgun with business intelligence, hardware and services. Security vendors play the same game. The list goes on and on.

With the Chrome OS announcement Google is entering the software stack game and it'll have implications for Linux, the enterprise, the cloud and Microsoft (albeit much less than you'd think). Coupled with Google's long overdue move to remove the "beta" tag from Google Apps the move into the operating system business all begins to add up.

Google's stack looks like this (Techmeme):

  • The Chrome OS;
  • The Chrome browser;
  • Google Apps (an office suite sans the beta tag);
  • Android for mobile;
  • The ad monetization model (search based obviously and focused on 'free' services);
  • The cloud.

In a blog post, Google said that the open source Chrome OS will run on both x86 and ARM chips and will be in netbooks in 2010. Hardware partners include: Acer, Adobe, ASUS, Freescale, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments. The Chrome OS will focus on Web apps. Google said:

Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We're designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don't have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.

If Google is successful it'll find an audience readily, but enterprises will ask a lot of questions going forward. For instance, how secure will Chrome be? Can it run legacy apps? Where does it fit in my existing stack of stuff? Will consumers drag this OS into my infrastructure? will the Chrome OS be free? And can the Chrome OS be used as leverage against Microsoft?

Meanwhile, the Chrome OS announcement is largely a preannouncement. There won't be anything to see for a year.

Also see: Microsoft, hoist by a Chrome petard

Google will be writing the Chrome OS from the ground up and it'll be very interesting to see what the company cooks up without any legacy shackles. For instance, Windows can't exactly sever 20 years worth of apps at the drop of a hat.


The Chrome OS story will play out over the next year or so. Here's a look at the items hit by Google OS shrapnel.

  • Current desktop Linux players. Ubuntu who? Consumer open source operating systems like Ubuntu have received some interest, but mostly from hard core geeks. If Linux is losing the battle on the netbook to Microsoft now just imagine what'll happen when Google enters the picture. Netbook operating systems will boil down to Google and Microsoft. Everything in the middle will be squeezed out. The Chrome OS is built on the Linux kernel, but if you're a developer Google will begin to equal Linux. Why? Distribution and the cool factor.
  • Hardware vendors. Suddenly netbook makers will have a lot more operating systems to offer. These offerings and configurations can be used more to sell more. The risk: Consumers may get confused.
  • Web applications. Google Chrome will target Web apps initially and that's great news for that intersection between rich Internet and desktop applications. Rest assured the Chrome OS-Google Apps bundle is coming.
  • Microsoft. The Chrome OS isn't likely to ding Windows 7 initially. Given Chrome's limited scope in the beginning there may be a sliver of margin pressure on Microsoft. The battle in the long run will be interesting though.

If the operating system wars turn out to be as competitive as the browser showdown we could be en route to a nice innovation phase.

Topics: Browser, Google, Hardware, Linux, Microsoft, Mobility, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

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  • wishful thinking

    I'm beginning to think someone just took some of these zdnet writers to the candy store or something?
    Everything they're saying is so good to be true. Google, "cool factor"? come on! So now you think where linux failed, google will suddenly succeed? I think most of you google-dazed people will be in for a shock surprise because I do not see google ever trumping linux...
    but aswell i think its good to dream
    • My point....

      is pretty simple. Consumer walks into store to get netbook. Sees Google OS and says "ah ok, I'll try that it's Google." Ubuntu can't do that. And not other desktop Linux version can do that. You need consumers over the hump with something either groundbreaking or familiar. That's why XP is dominant on netbooks now--it is familiar. Even though Ubuntu is on my netbook and is fine.

      Linux isn't a failure by any means. In the enterprise it's huge. But we're talking netbooks and the masses.
      Larry Dignan
      • Spot On Observation

        Google can pair with a couple of hardware types and be outrageously successful in the consumer marketplace.

        I just wonder (out loud) whether MS will try to quash these efforts behind closed doors with the OEMS.

        Just like they did with Compaq, et al, early in the browser wars.

        I watch raptly ....
        • It would be harder now

          Obviously, the anti-trust stuff changed the way Microsoft tried to bully OEM's. Combine that with the way the Internet spreads news (and falsehoods) effortlessly, Microsoft won't be able to squash Google as easily as they could have in the past.
        • The behind close doors may not work . . . .

          . . . as in "how would you and your products like to disappear from Google?"

      • Linux will get an opportunity to extend Chrome's netbooks.

        For Chrome to be instant on and have better security it has to run directly from (protected) flash.

        So, yes Google may sell at lot of netbooks running Chrome. Eventually, folks will find they want more than Chrome provides and upgrade to Linux, which can run out of flash, too.
      • Good Luck

        Unless Google gets everything right, not likely, no security issues, backwards compatibility, suits everyone, etc. They risk losing search users from the disatisfaction caused by launching yet another version of Unix.
    • Microsoft killer?

      The problem with Linux is that it's not supported by any commercial organization, but instead is a conglomeration of enthusiasts. I love Linux and use it on all my servers but I would rather have a supported desktop structure (Mac) than a mix of non-professional quasi working apps that constitute Linux.

      With Google OS, I can see a more professional face to an open source platform, one that will actually be acceptable to corporations and the general public.
      • and that was what I was getting at

        you put it much better than I did ;)
        Larry Dignan
        • The problem is...

          ...that you're both wrong in a sense.

          Google isn't really going to provide any more commercial backing than any of the other Linux companies. In fact I'd dare say they are going to provide less. The are probably going to turn this loose to OEM's to handle.

          What Google provides is the perception that this is from a major company. As you stated in the other post the average user doesn't know Red Hat, Canonical or Novell but they do know Google. All Google really had to do was take a stock Linux distro and stick their name on it to sell it. People buy marketing...not products.
      • No COMMERCIAL Org.???!!!

        Then what do you consider Novell (SuSE Linux), Redhat (Redhat Enterprise Linux), and Canonical (Ubuntu Linux)? Novell has been around a long time and purchased SuSE Linux. Redhat has been around since the early days of Linux and IPO'd in 1998 or 1999. I don't know much about Canonical (blame it on me in the US) but the other two are very commercial, and I'm sure I have forgotten others that offer commercial support for their version of Linux. But due to FUD from MS (Linux infringes on our patents) some people are afraid there is a risk to using Linux.

        Now, that said; MS makes me lots of money for the support I provide and when I get a person to 'cross-over', they usually don't need me as often because it works for what they need.
        • Both are enterprise

          Remember, the Chrome OS is for netbooks. We're talking a consumer game not an enterprise game. Ask the average dolt in Best Buy what Red Hat is and he'll probably break out a Phillies cap (not those ugly blue ones btw)
          Larry Dignan
          • Matters not...

            The poster claimed that Linux was a mash up of apps that were supported by a bunch of enthusiasts and not a commercially backed offering. Whether they are aiming at enterprise or home desktop the commercial backing is there and they have provided a well put together system. The posters comments were false.
      • Google works well because it is friendly

        "With Google OS, I can see a more professional
        face to an open source platform, one that will
        actually be acceptable to corporations and the
        general public."
        This is spot on. I am in the mom and pop
        home OS system category using Win XP for the
        moment. I tried the other day to use WUBI, and
        it crashed my system. Gmail has never crashed
        me. I believe that Chrome OS will go beta, get
        challenged by on line criminals, solve the
        glitches and make life easier for mom and pop.
      • Chrome OS Won't Be Competing w/ Microsoft Desktops!

        @coryatjohn I actually believe that the whole battle is changing focus. For awhile Google seemed to be teaming up w/ Apple to go after Microsoft. But they've changed sides and now seem to be (although still w/ some friendly rivalry) teaming up with Microsoft, against a common threat and enemy.... Apple!

        Notice that I don't think Google will ever go after the Desktop with it's full desktop applications, that people and enterprise will still need. They're just focusing on picking up the gap that XP is leaving behind. That's why Linux Desktop OS Distros really aren't afraid of Google either. Afterall it's still Linux. Which just means less distribution of Linux Desktop OS on lower power mobile devices. That actually helps keep Linux Desktops safer for us geeks and enterprise. For us that are savvy enough to use it and love it!

        So I'll just stick to my Windows 7/Mint Dual boot PC type systems for my Desktop! ....and most definitely, I'll be sampling Chrome OS hardware that will carry instant wireless WiFi/WiMax/4G access right out of the box. Some will have free trial "Pay as You Go" sim cards installed out of box. I understand the Chrome Slates and Netbooks will be offered with a variety of wireless providers on 2yr subsidized service contracts as well.

        This is also what Samsung is working on with it's Android Tape Slates. Like phones...... sign on the dotted line for 2yrs and you'll be walking out the door with an iPad equivalent at a third of the cost! ....while iPad is locked in at full cost to AT&T until 2013 and no doubt Microsoft will do something similar!

        Yeah.... that's right. Because AT&T had to go through the first year of building the Garden Walled infrastructure for Apple's Voicemail Services and then, coming App Market, they received the right to renegotiate their 5yr contract for another 5yrs beginning in 2008!

    • chrome plating

      chrome was widely used as corrosive inhibitor plating on items which generally deteriorated from oxidation. From the early 1950's to the mid 1970's it was widely used in mobile devices such as car and truck grills and bumpers. It's popularity was rampant during that time because of the visually appealing effect it had on the mobile devices it was available on. Ultimately it was found to be affected by the same oxidation that affected the parts it was supposed to protect and beautify and was finally superseded by more advanced and durable polymers and plastics which performed much better and were much lighter. Google is the native universal language of all infants prior to them learning the language of their parents country.

      Babies grow up, chrome flakes away, spin cycles cease, and wisdom always wins. Ten years ago everyone thought Andreeson ruled the world. People, wake up and stop drinking the kool-aid.

      Googles Chrome is cool, and neat, and there does seem to be some pseudo-popularity. Same as other fads that have their place in pop cultural history. Shrapnel? Yes! Because it isn't just disruptive; it has the potential to be highly destructive. If it ever becomes anything more than a temporal phenomenom, it will be the kool-aid that kills what remains of the global economy.
      • Okaaayyy . . . .

        Now Google is responsible for Trashing the economy?!?

        I do hope you're being facetious about this (in reference to similar claims being levied against MS in years past).

        If you're not, then you need to check to see if your tinfoil hat is on too tight . . .
        • dazed and confused

          It's the kool-aid, not the Google. Stop drinking it, obtain some sobriety, and you'll figure it out. Consumers consume. It's the poison that's the problem.
      • I agree and only time will tell...the same comments

        were about their Apps. I think they stink but getting better and how many years have I heard about the "office killer apps". Google - "The Beta Company" - has a long way to go to be a SAP/MS/Oracle level company. And I have a lot of questions when I open a computer and I'm on the net in seconds...connectiving , speed, access, reliability that are out of their hands - that is a lot relying on a crappy communication network. But our "Saviour" Obama will have a Government run nation wide "free" network soon, yep that will be as reliable as a government car...oops they have that too.
    • Linux fails to win-over consumers ...

      ... because it's "eco-system" requires so much 'special knowledge'. This is not a problem with Google. But their solution must be rock-solid and suitable as an appliance. Otherwise, it is just another "also ran" OS which needs the same "care and feeding" as Windows or Linux.
      M Wagner