It will be great to finally see a truly web based operating system released…
Though there is still a great deal unknown about Google’s Chrome OS, it will likely be the next logical step in operating system development: a rich edge-based footprint for web centric computing. If combined with their recently unveiled unified messaging environment Google Wave, Chrome OS will offer a fairly unique and attractive user experience. By providing a slimmed down set of local services to cleanly extend open web standard support – without the need for any legacy support – Chrome OS should be able to offer some significant performance benefits vs. Windows. Here’s what Google said about it in their own recent announcement:
Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We’re designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.
I have no doubt that Google will try to make Chrome OS a fairly complete solution out of the box. They can certainly roll together all of their own web applications with popular 3rd party web apps to cover most of the key functionality people would look to have when they power a system on. I also expect that Google will extend their Android “App Store” and fold it in to this new OS. This would let new applications download and install just like browser plug-ins instead of like traditional windows applications. If Google can combine that simplicity with ‘instant on’ functionality, Chrome OS will offer a clearly differentiated computing model from any of the “old-school” operating systems.
This is an exciting and important move by Google. Microsoft’s “Windows” is the crown jewel of tech industry franchises. Even for a company the size of Google, grabbing just a small piece of Windows total market share – even an overlapping piece – would be significant. Chrome OS has a lot of potential here.
While the move to a web centric operating may appear conceptually correct and even inevitable, Google will still need to overcome a lot of challenges if they want to make Chrome OS a success:
- Time To Market: Chrome OS won’t be out for another year. In technology circles, a year is forever. Neither Microsoft nor Apple are passively waiting for this to arrive. Windows 7 should be able to support Netbook systems, and more of the Office suite will be available as web based applications. Apple has already claimed a big chunk of this mobile web space with their iPhone, and will likely be releasing a new device this year that will probably appeal to the same audience Chrome OS is targeting. And innovation continues to come from every corner.
- Market Momentum: Windows is everywhere. People are comfortable with it and pretty much know how to work with it. For all it’s well publicized issues, it’s the devil everyone already knows. Getting people to take a chance on something new is tough, and Google will need deliver more than a ‘Field of Dreams’ marketing strategy if they want to get any mind share/traction with Chrome OS. Unfortunately, that’s not an area they’ve shown themselves to be particularly adroit in.
- Mobile Connectivity: Anyone that depends on any of the US wireless carriers for mobile data services already knows just how bad service can be in some places. If I had a hard drive that was as unreliable as these services are, I would need to get it replaced. In a mobile, internet centric computing device, the web is my new “hard drive”. It’s where I store my data and load my applications from. To overcome this Google will need to offer a system that presents a meaningful level of functionality even when users are disconnected from the web, or when connectivity is intermittent.
- Device Support: Beyond everything else, this could be the make or break item for Chrome OS. People have significant investments in all sorts of devices: printers, phones, cameras, scanners, media players, etc. If Google can’t figure out a way to get support ready for the most popular of these devices by the time it launches, it will end up being just an interesting experiment that most people ignore. And it needs to do it without making Chrome OS a slow starting or virus prone mess.
At this point, Google’s Chrome OS is just an idea with potential. It’s success will depend on focus, attention to detail and flawless execution. They will need to articulate clearly how this fits in with their seemingly competitive investment in Android, and actively work with partners in the market place to make sure support is there for it on launch day. Even though Chrome OS will be open sourced upon release, Google needs to take ownership of getting penetration in the market. This is different from any other product they have launched. Google will be asking people to depend on Chrome OS for everything they want to do, and will even need to convince new system buyers to bet their entire purchase on it. It needs to be a complete, fully functional, well supported offering.
I’m excited to see how well Google rises to the challenge…