Will Google's Chrome OS look rusty by late 2010?

Will Google's Chrome OS look rusty by late 2010?

Summary: After reading the very few Chrome OS details that Google smartly dropped a couple of weeks before Microsoft is expected to announce the release to manufacturing of Windows 7, I've got a few doubts.... And quite a few more than the huge number of Google fanboys and girls who seem to forget for all its product debuts, Google hasn't had any home runs other than search.

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After years of repeated denials, Google has finally acknowledged that it is, indeed, building an operating system for PCs.

I think it's good for customers, PC makers, software makers and even for Microsoft that Google is getting into the operating-system game. After more than two decades, Microsoft has only one real competitor in the desktop OS space: Apple. That's not enough. Competition is good. It keeps prices down and true innovation up.

However,  after reading the very few Chrome OS details that Google smartly dropped a couple of weeks before Microsoft is expected to announce the release to manufacturing of Windows 7, I've got a few doubts.... And quite a few more than the huge number of Google fanboys and girls who seem to forget for all its product debuts, Google hasn't had any home runs other than search.

Google will undoubtedly fill in a lot of the holes that it left open with today's announcement. But here are a few that already have me wondering:

1. Google Chrome OS is shipping in the second half of 2010? And people criticize Microsoft for  preannouning vaporware by years? Late 2010 is eons from now in the computing world. (It's even later than Windows Mobile 7, which is expected to start showing up on phones in the first half of 2010.) To those saying that Chrome OS will drop at the same time as Windows 7, your calendars need adjusting. Windows 7 goes on sale October 22, 2009.

2. Google is going to let people modify and change the OS source code? As Apple has shown quite well, when one vendor controls the end-to-end process, both the computer hardware and software, and doesn't let anyone else touch it, a PC has more cohesiveness and less crapware. Microsoft has shown that OEMs can be allowed to customize their PCs without tinkering with -- and introducing more support headaches, bugs and glitches into -- the OS. How many different Chrome OSes will there be? Who will be entity users call when they have OS problems?

3. What happened to Google's positioning that no one was going to want software running on PCs in our brave new world? People just needed devices and browsers and Google Docs and Apps. PCs were dated and clunky and only for people who wanted to run old-school apps locally. Weren't they? Now, Google is adopting the same world view as Microsoft: There will be different OSes for different platforms (Android and Windows Mobile for phones; Chrome OS and Windows for PCs).

I also think it's telling that many of Google's fans seem to be assuming Microsoft is standing still. Yes, Windows 7 is just another version of Windows... a good one, but still another iteration of what Microsoft's been developing for years.

Remember: Microsoft has a number of projects in the works that I'd say are more likely to be competitors to Chrome OS than is Windows 7. The Gazelle OS-in-a-browser project from Microsoft Research is still just a research project and not in incubation or test-release form. But if Microsoft decides it has legs, they could put it on a fast track. There's Live Mesh -- which is more like Google Wave in theory, than the Chrome OS. But no one at Microsoft has talked publicly about the implications of "meshifying Windows" and what that might look like.

I say welcome to the OS party, Google. But I know I am not going to be in line in late 2010 for a version 1.0 product on a netbook. Will you? And even if you won't, what kinds of effects do you hope Google getting into the PC OS business will have on Microsoft?

Topics: Google, Apple, Browser, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, PCs, Windows

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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251 comments
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  • This is a thin client for webapps

    As I read the press release, this is just a thin client for webapps. It looks like the only things that will run will run in a browser. They might be able to pull it off quite well - its built on the Linux kernel, which has really stepped up in hardware support the last few years - especially if you exclude fancy graphics hardware that won't be needed in this context. They should also be able to make it boot very quickly, which will be a win. However, I don't see this really taking off even on netbooks - I think it will power a new category of machine, which I'll call a "webbook". Webbooks will be thin, light, run on ARM chips likely, have very long battery life, and likely little to no local storage (a small fast SSD for system files and browser cache, temp files, etc.). (Internet kiosks in public locations would be another good application for this, especially if Google pulls off some good mass administration tools) It might out-netbook a netbook, but this is not a general purpose OS.
    Bruce IV
    • Missed all the Android Festivities?

      All I've heard lately is "Android on this or that platform" ! This is the
      equivalent strategy to "windows everywhere." now we're seeing google
      everywhere. I'm starting to feel a little bit like we're in the middle of a
      Blade Runner franchise war... and Taco Bell is going to win!
      Olderdan
      • Wrong Reference

        Your reference is wrong!! lol it is Demolition Man that had the franchise war comment in it with Taco Bell winning! lol
        Djblois
        • Right movie, wrong franchise.

          It was Pizza Hut, not Taco Bell that supposedly won the restaurant wars in the Demolition Man world.
          cammo2009
    • People would break their neck if ...

      they try to follow Google fanboys' spinning. One day they tell you Google's web apps will provide closed to desktop user experience so you no longer need a fat client OS any more, then the next day they say all you need is to read your email fast so a stripped down OS w/ minimal user interface is the solution.

      You just have to give it to them. O'Reilly spinning factor looks like a rusty machine in front of these fanboys.
      LBiege
    • Isn't that what netbooks were supposed to be?

      Thin clients have been in the marketplace in various forms for years and they still do not live up to the hype.

      That said, positioning ChromeOS as a better netbook OS than Windows (or Linux) might just work (if ChromeOS can deliver) but we already know that consumers won't buy netbooks with Linux & Firefox so ChromeOS has to offer something MORE, not just more of the same.
      M Wagner
      • NC's, anyone?

        The NC was a very similar concept. Many thought
        Windows was doomed. I'll bet Bill Gates laughed
        himself sideways.

        People believed netbooks would be ruled by
        Linux making them cheaper. Microsoft, again,
        kicked Linux in the groin. Why?

        It's familiar, easy to use, powerful, AND
        SUPPORTED. Notice Red Hat does as well as
        anything in the Linux world (desktop wise)?
        Support is important. If Chrome doesn't have
        support, it'll fail.
        evilkillerwhale@...
        • But XP kicked Bill back...

          evilkillerwhale: Bill really laughed sideways with NC, but not with netbooks.

          You're right, netbooks run Windows, but WINDOWS XP... that is 30 to 40 bucks cheaper than WINDOWS VISTA...

          So now poor Balmer has a support nightmare with tens of millions of XP users clamoring for support, a software pipeline (Office 14, Messenger 2010, VS 2010, etc. etc) that depends on Windows 7 success (or else all of this products will fail on the market for lack of customers)...

          In the other end of the spectrum is Linux, which like the turtle in the fable has been running since 1991, with no driver model change and no software pipeline stuck in the Vista toll booth.

          So who's laughing now... not Bill... not Steve (Jobs or Ballmer)... its that little penguin whose turn finally has come...
          cosuna
          • Not really.

            This thing is nothing but a launch pad for Chrome. If that is the only thing you need to run it's a winner. If you need to run something else it isn't going to do jack.
            deowll
          • Yeah, how long has Linux been on the edge of taking over the world?

            The truth of it is that Linux won't take over the world because people only change if they are NEED to. People only change if the product they are changing to is hundreds of times better than what they have. It can't be just as good. It has to be so good that not moving would be foolish, maybe even painful. Linux needs something you can't live without. For example, if Linux could boot up on 0.5 seconds from cold start, could run a system so efficiently that a normal 2 hour battery runs for 12 hours, could compress video from 7 gigs down to 20 megs and allowed for free VOIP services to any phone anywhere in the world I MIGHT look at it. Until then, its just too much of a hastle to mess with learning something new when WIndows does what I need. Windows if fine. Not great. Just fine.

            Show me something so cool that I can't resist and I'll switch.
            A Gray
          • Sorry, Linux lost the netbook market.

            You didn't hear? <br>
            And just like it takes a Ubuntu "remix", in other words a scaled down version with much functionaily in the full "package" cut out, so it will be windows 7. It's already proven it can run on a netbook.
            <br>
            Hey Mary Jo, you are spot on......many of these people actually do think MS is sitting still. LOL!!!
            <br>
            You see, unlike the "fairy tale", the MS rabbit isn't going to lie down with the finish line in site. They took on the Super powers of IT from the 80s and squashed them all...IBM, SUN, APPLE, AT&T..etc etc....what makes you think anything is going to stand in their way now? <br>
            Someone posted a link to me in this blog with an "expose" on MS and what they did to poor IBM. It was good for chuckle to start the day if nothing else.
            I love those papers with no author, written by some socialist in the EU.
            (speaking of socialists, that is where much of open source comes from....the working class pays super high taxes and those who want to do nothing get to sit around tinkering with Linux on the back of the working man. Gotta love socialism.
            <br>
            ;)
            xuniL_z
          • It will take years for you ro figure out

            What is immediately apparent to millions of us.

            ?by Jaguarior ? Gott ist h?ssli...

            ?An empowered, healthy, well educated general workforce is primarily what brought this country to "greatness".

            But, say "bye" to that. We, the common people, aka "the masses", became too empowered, healthy and well educated, according to the powers that be. Dumb, weak, desperate people are so much easier to manage (control). What boss wants willful subordinates? What corporation wants employees who say what goes and when, naming their own wages and benefits, etc? None, of course. So, "Time to take 'em down a peg. Let's turn back the clock to a more glorious day!"

            ?Welcome to the 21st century, folks.

            Dictatorial Fascism, FTW! woot! (Not.)


            http://www.sodahead.com/question/252477/what-is-the-opposite-of-socialism/
            Ole Man
          • You are trolling, aren't you?

            > I love those papers with no author, written by some socialist in the EU.
            > (speaking of socialists, that is where much of open source comes from....the working class pays super high taxes and those who want to do nothing get to sit around tinkering with Linux on the back of the working man. Gotta love socialism.

            Large part of OpenSource comes from US, the it even started there with GNU, at MIT. Large commercial companies is backing OS up, like IBM, Microsoft, Sun, Oracle and Apple to mention just some.
            Jxn
          • You live in hope son!!

            You mean the penguin with 0.67% of the world market?? Just enjoy using yours as for selling the dam thing..very expensive failure I had a rack full of returns. Like a lot of other dealers I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole again,Joe public want what they know and trust regardless how good a new kid on the block is.
            Richard Turpin
        • You forgot something...

          > It's familiar,
          Ok, Vista wasn't
          > easy to use,
          No, but enough people think so
          > powerful,
          Hmmm
          > AND SUPPORTED.
          Again, enough people actually think this...
          > Notice Red Hat does as well as
          anything in the Linux world (desktop wise)?
          > Support is important.
          FEALING of support is important.
          > If Chrome doesn't have support, it'll fail.
          No, but if customers doesn't think that, it is a problem for Chrome.
          Jxn
    • Good for WebBooks - not for NetBooks

      Google OS is definitely geared for web applications and web applications are useless when you aren't on the web. A web OS will be just as useless. BUT - there may be some hope because Google OS, despite the hype engine, is really just Linux with a different window manager and Chrome browser.

      I don't really see how a web OS will be very useful in the real world. Netbooks are useful mostly for their tiny size, cheap price, and vast battery life - NOT simply as thin clients for web. Because they use a desktop operating system and desktop applications, getting on the web is only one thing out of many things they can do. Being able to type up notes or presentations on a cross-country flight without the battery dying is more important and you (generally) don't have web access on a plane.

      So basically, I read the Google press release about Google Chrome OS and asked myself, "Who cares?" It looks like a waste of time and resources to me.
      BillDem
      • Re;Good for WebBooks - not for NetBooks

        Google is also rolling out offline Google Docs.
        But Its not yet 100%.

        llemm
        llemm
      • Good for WebBooks - not for NetBooks

        Well, GPRS and faster technics will give you what you ask for. But otherwise your analizes was ok.

        And are you not a bit self centric here? Not every computer owner go by plane one or more timer a month...
        Jxn
    • it's not a Windows Replacement

      completely agree - it's just a thin-client model OS. It'll likely have few features that most users will expect to see.

      It has the same problems as Linux, and will stay a niche Thin-OS as a result of it - too much choice, too little standardisation. Support for this will be a nightmare.

      At least with Wyse OS based thin-clients (where the source may not necessarily be open, but can be chnged to suit a clients needs notheless on a whim) is a standard, allowing it to be used in a broad scale environment.

      I keep saying this - fan boys / linux lovers and tech-nerds are the small majority. For the rest of us, an operating system is needs interopability, standardisation and extreme familiarity. Without those three things, it will always be niche. It also needs to be able to be monetised to suvive in a world where monetisation is king.

      I love google search, i use it almost on an hourly basis and wouldn't think to go elsewhere. However, my experiences with Chrome / Firefox et al are all the same. An example - I installed Chrome on a number of PC's at my families homes as well as my partners notebook, removed the explorer icon and then told them they had a new / faster browser. 9 out of 10 of them asked me to come back and put IE back repeatedly - things just wouldn't work properly, and they lacked the need / want to be forced down that path.

      10% seems to be the golden rule, and why this is not a mass market item.

      Competition is great - I applaud it and welcome it, but seriously, it looks to being hyped as a competitor to MS without any factual basis. (and yes, I run osx86, vista, windows 7 and a linux variant), but windows is always the winner for the points mentioned above.
      stewymelb
      • Excellent Statement

        I Concur your sentiments entirely,very well articulated.
        Richard Turpin