Today’s heavily hyped press event around Google’s operating system (which is still a year away from launch) would make one think that major new features were about to be announced. However, this is no Google Navigation announcement. MSFT closed down –1.10% for the day and GOOG also closed down –0.63% for the day.
First, the simple question, what is Google’s Chrome O/S? Chrome is a fast, lightweight web browser that does not allow any modification to the base system. Chrome O/S is a dumb terminal. There are no plans for storage built into the system, relying completely on the cloud to store data.
How are they handling the major points I raised in my last post?
Device Compatibility – Google only announced compatibility with storage cards, digital cameras, and printers. Driver support for printers has historically been a problem for Microsoft (note over 2M results for searches around XP, Vista, and Win7). There are many vendors and legacy printers that users will expect support for. So, Google is focusing on only a few segments to support, but even then, it’s still a big problem to solve in the next year.
Application Compatibility – As predicted, Google will support extensions and plugins, but not have “native apps”. Still to see if Chrome will support running web applications stored on an SD card…
Web Compatibility – If I were at the press event, this would be where my questions would focus. Google glossed over what will be supported and did not show any OpenID, Facebook, or other online authentication modules. Presence is obviously built in, utilizing the current Google Talk interfaces. Nothing really new here.
All in all, I thought it was a great overview, although not very groundbreaking. Looks like Google will be offering this for free, mainly around netbooks, for launch sometime in Q4 2010. Windows 7 Starter is currently priced around $30, so it remains to be seen what sort of impact these Google Chrome “appliances” will have on this market. Historically, MSFT has dominated Linux in the netbook space, achieving massive market share even while charging for the product. Chrome is getting a lot of hype, but will it topple MSFT? Time will tell…
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.