First off, define “success”… Microsoft Windows is the de facto standard accounting for over 90% of all O/S share. Does Apple’s Mac OS X with ~5% count as success? Linux adoption is even less… Thus, one should realize that the operating system is the platform for devices to be built on, and that platform is quickly changing. As I posted about Microsoft Office earlier this week, the advent of the web as the new platform for application development will change the dynamic for what matters to consumers about an O/S. Google’s success will be determined not by market share, but by how effectively they can change public opinion about operating systems.
- Device Compatibility – The age old problem for computer hardware vendors can be summed up in a single word: drivers. One of the primary reasons Windows Vista had such a negative connotations in people’s minds was a lack of driver compatibility. What good is a device if you can’t use it? Users expect true plug and play. Windows 7 has this, can Google deliver?
- Application Compatibility – I think Google will leverage the developer ecosystem they’ve been building, and try to turn applications into operating system extensions. Perhaps it’s just nomenclature, but Google would be smart to have a similar open App Store for their O/S, much like Apple’s iPhone store, or the Android App Store (Possible Bonus: Allow Android apps to run natively in Chrome).
- Web Compatibility – I think Google will integrate the Chrome browser so tightly into the O/S that it will be indistinguishable to the user if an app/extension is on the web or on the desktop. I think Google will use extensive caching and focus on an “always on” internet connection. This fits in perfectly with Google Mail, Google Talk, and Google Docs. I believe presence and cross-site authentication will be major focuses of the operating system, allowing a user to unify their identity online being pre-authenticated by the O/S.
I’m interested to see what the Google Chrome O/S launch contains. Hopefully, we’ll enter a new era of competition, which brings new innovations from both camps. After all, Microsoft can claim that if Google is already creating something (and offering it for free) that Microsoft should be able to as well. Look for increased bundling of applications and online services from both companies. Microsoft and Google realize that this game is about the platform, and that platform is increasingly becoming web-based.