Google Chrome OS is Google’s long-rumoured entry into the operating system arena. On the whole, Google are doing a good thing. But could Chrome OS also herald the dawn of the ‘net appliance?
When I first read the news of Google trotting out their own OS, my first thought was: “This is quite significant.”
But after thinking the matter through a little more, I don’t think it’s all that clear cut.
The following is a comment of mine on the official Google Chrome OS article, taken from my Page on Facebook:
“But after thinking about this, is this really significant? OK, so people get a choice of OS. But do people really care that much any more?
I don’t see Chrome OS doing too much harm to Microsoft and their Windows franchise because how do you compete with that kind of market penetration and market exposure?
Also, anyone who would want Chrome OS would need to know an appreciable amount more about such things, when compared to your average PC user, so they’re already in a minority.
For the the ultra-connected information worker, this is choice. For the average guy on the street, if it doesn’t play Call of Duty, or Word, it’s a no choice at all.”
So that accounts for the majority of people out there, right? Yes. But that only served to get me thinking again…
Let’s face, it’s unlikely that we’ll see major video games like Call of Duty running on the Chrome OS — unless there’s a web version. But that kind of black & white perspective is merely a misdirection. Google are hoping to achieve bigger things with their Chrome OS.
As a business man, I know only too well that if you aim a product or service at everyone, you get no one — you start with a well defined audience and then build outwards.
I don’t see anyone competing with Microsoft Windows. Instead, I see Windows being eroded by the likes of Chrome OS, niche distributions of Linux, Apple’s own Mac OS X — all of which will incrementally and inexorably eat into areas of Windows where Microsoft are negligent and / or weak.
Of course, Microsoft will fight and retaliate, but in the end, their great size will be their undoing as smaller players run rings around their slow, lumbering heels.
The rise of the mobile worker
So who are Google going for with Chrome OS? As I mentioned in my comment, it’s the information workers and their netbooks who’ll capitalize on the svelte, feature-lite aspects of Chrome OS.
I can see a time when people have as many as three computers:
- a desktop in the home, for their family and their home entertainment.
- a laptop for shuttling between home and office.
- a netbook or PDA type computer for ad hoc information gathering, meetings et cetera.
Google are in a good position because they have Chrome OS and Android, both of which cover the netbook and PDA spaces respectively. However, for Google to pull this off, they need to clearly differentiate the two, or they will find themselves walking the same path as Microsoft, with their cluster of customer confusement inducing Windows variations.
Currently, there’s clearly overlap between Chrome OS and Android, but not in a good way:
“I also suspect that some at Google were not entirely happy with the the direction that its Android mobile OS project is taking. Numerous netbook makers have made plans to install Android on small laptops. But Android was designed for handsets and a move to bigger devices is problematic.”
If there’s frustration (or even confusion) at the manufacturer level, then we can only see this permeating upwards, through to the consumers.
On the plus side, the information worker is a rare breed, who are, on the whole, not easily put off or daunted by operating systems, software & hardware specifications or device-specific requirements.
In 5 years, such will be the interoperability of the web, just about all of the web applications we use will run like one huge Unix pipe routine — one application feeding into the next, and so on and so forth.
This cooperative, expansive and deeply social web opens up a world of amazing possibilities. Before all of this potential can be realized to its fullest, several major hurdles remain (such a portable social profiles, which I allude to in my 3-part discussion about how the semantic web could be the killer application).
From island nations of data to continental information super highways
Once we’re over the horizon, the web landscape is transformed from disparate, isolated island nations of data into a super-continent of interconnected services and applications.
We sign in once, we then declare our needs, desires, intentions and our goals, and then watch the myriad web applications whir into life as they sift, sort, collate, calibrate, refine and render data into neat collections of presentable information.
Google have the infrastructure and now the software to deliver a ‘net appliance to make all of this happen now, ahead of time.
So long as Google remain relevant and the quality of their many productivity applications stays high enough, Chrome OS could be the much fabled ‘net appliance oft talked about but never seen, until now perhaps…