Google dumps Windows; Is Microsoft's OS headed down a troubled path?

Google pulls the plug on Windows PCs for security reasons but, in an increasingly competitive environment, is this another attack on the future of Windows OS?
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

It comes as no surprise that Google would want its employees to use its products, including the forthcoming Chrome OS. But months before the operating system is released publicly, the company has reportedly started pulling the plug on internal use of Windows computers. going so far as to require special permission to use Microsoft's OS.

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A Financial Times report late Monday cited "several Google employees," who say the shift was accelerated by security concerns following the hacking attack that prompted Google to shut down its China site earlier this year. The report says that new hires are given the option of a Mac or Linux-based PC as their company-issued computer. It also quotes some employees who say that uproar at Google over the phase-out of Windows has been far less than it might have been if the company had pulled the plug on Apple products.

I realize that it's only one company - a soon-to-be-competitor, no less - but I can't help but wonder if this move by Google is a sign of worse things to come for Microsoft, as it relates to the future of the Windows operating system. I only raise the point because this FT report reminded me of a blog post by Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps last week in which she explores Microsoft's position in the tablet game and the company's need for an answer to the iPad - from an OS point-of-view.

In it, she talks about the concept of "curated computing," a style of personal computing where choice is limited but relevance is abundant. That, of course, is the iPad model, which she refers to as jukebox style computing. But, there's no reason Microsoft can't - and shouldn't - also come up with a curated computing device to go head-to-head with the iPad, especially if it can tether with the Xbox to create a digital living room that the company has envisioned for years.

Back in April, Microsoft pulled the plug on Courier, a folding tablet/booklet device that was reportedly in “late prototype” last fall. That's unfortunate, Rotman Epps writes, because the company needs to be in this ball game - for the sake of the OS. She writes:

At stake for Microsoft is no less than the future of the OS: For Microsoft to remain relevant to consumers, it needs to adapt its operating system to new form factors beyond the traditional PC. Forrester estimates that tablets will outsell netbooks in the US starting in 2013, and tablets will constitute 20% of all PC sales in the US in 2015. Microsoft needs its operating system on those tablets. Now it needs to convince its partners — and consumers — that they need Microsoft, too.

Certainly, I don't think a decision by Google to pull the plug on internal use of Windows machines spells the end for the OS. After all, Windows is a security risk because it's so deeply entrenched into the world of personal and business computing. Tech bad guys tend to target the biggest audience of users - and that's Windows.

But the growing popularity of the Mac, as well as computers that are Linux-based, and now the upcoming launch of Chrome, does put some increased pressure on Microsoft. Investors are already feeling shaky about the company's missteps on the mobile front and now the OS is coming under attack, as well.

Update: Microsoft's corporate communications chief Frank X. Shaw has some fun with the FT story on his personal Twitter account. He notes that Google is going Google---nothing more nothing less. Among some of the more entertaining tweets:

  • news flash: Google boards up all windows in its global HQ, citing security concerns. Must credit FT.
  • News flash: Google bans ford cars using Sync from its parking lot, citing security issues. Must credit FT.
  • News flash: Google bans Bing from its computers. Must credit FT. Picture on Bing home page is distracting to G engineers.

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