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Chrome OS: good for you; bad for Microsoft

Google's latest announcement is good news for all computer users. It helps loosen Microsoft's death grip on the PC market and promises lower prices, higher reliability and smarter design.
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor

Google's latest announcement is good news for all computer users. It helps loosen Microsoft's death grip on the PC market and promises lower prices, higher reliability and smarter design.

Unpacking Google's announcement This announcement was carefully calculated - not an over-caffeinated coder's late-night howl.

  • Timing. Note the 12-18 month delivery: they've been watching how M$ freezes the market with "strategic" pre-annoucements.
  • Pricing. Free, as in open-source. M$ will have to fight for every dollar from netbook makers. Google should be handing out "Chrome OS" coffee cups to every M$ OEM starting with HP and Dell.
  • Target. Developers: "For application developers, the web is the platform. . . . [it will give] developers the largest user base of any platform."
  • Goal. ". . . computers need to get better." More like a big smartphone and less like a server - a clear swipe at M$.
  • Market. ". . . small netbooks to full-size desktop systems." Google is generously ceding the server OS market to M$ and Linux - for now.

Low-end becomes mid-range As noted in Windows kicks Linux to the curb, it is costly for M$ to defend Windows pricing at the low-end. On a 99¢ netbook even $5 for the OS is a problem. The uncoordinated Linux assault on Windows has fizzled out, but Google has the money and the presence to reignite the competition.

And competition is a Good Thing.

The Storage Bits take As Moore's Law and economies of scale make it possible for a $200 netbook to do what most folks need, the lucrative OEM OS market will start to dry up. Microsoft will have to decide between clawing for OS dollars or protecting their Office franchise.

They'll be wise to choose the latter, but old habits - and revenue streams - die hard. Consumer operating systems should be low-cost commodities, and the Chrome OS is a step in the right direction.

Today's personal computers - including Macs - are about where cars were in the 1930's: funky 2-speed automatics; manual chokes; flaky brakes; hinky electrical systems; vapor lock; but hey! you don't have to crank start them hand load the boot program. The industry has a long way to go.

Comments welcome, of course. History note: there is an older GCOS, influenced by the Multics OS that inspired Unix, the General Comprehensive Operating System. Almost 50 years old, it is still running on some mainframes in emulation.

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