The most strategic tech error of the 21st Century surely has to be the way that Google has mishandled their Operating System – Chrome OS.
OK maybe that’s hyperbole but based on the fact that Microsoft stumbled loudly and publicly with Windows 8, it’s hard to disagree that this is the perfect time for an OS competitor to strike!
Now in the past, I have written articles about the fact that the Chrome OS is shyte and needs to be scrapped and started over. I still stand by that.
What’s interesting is Tom Warren’s assertion that Google are using Windows 8 as a Trojan Horse to build Chrome OS into.
Over the past few weeks, Google has been updating its developer version of the Chrome browser to run what’s essentially Chrome OS within Windows 8’s “Metro” mode.
Chrome traditionally runs on the desktop in Windows 8, but you can set it to launch within the Windows 8 Start Screen into a special “Metro-style” mode.
In the latest dev channel release the UI and functionality is identical to Chrome OS. There’s a shelf with Chrome, Gmail, Google, Docs, and YouTube icons that can be arranged at the bottom, left, or right of the screen. Like Chrome OS, you can create multiple browser windows and arrange them using a snap to the left or right of the display or full-screen modes. ..
And on and on…
I doubt that this is Google’s long term strategy – just one of their never-ending twists and turns. It’s too obvious and open to intervention from Microsoft directly.
What is more puzzling though is why Google have continued to develop such a primitive Operating System. As I said before, this is the most vulnerable that Microsoft has ever been and I have to believe that well polished Google/Linux knockoff could give Windows a run for it’s money.
Here are some of the reasons why:
- It would be cheaper than Windows 8
- It would look more or less like a conventional Operating System (Linux)
- It would be fully supported by Google
- It would integrate fully with Google docs and apps
- It would integrate with phones and tablets
It would put Google squarely into full competition with Microsoft but unlike Microsoft, they would be able to compete steeply on price and practically give the thing away.
IT has become very commoditized now. All we need from computers is browsing, email and office documents. While we all need the occasional specialized app now and then, the majority of apps either run in a browser or probably will be ported to a browser soon.
You also throw in the fact that OEM’s are looking for new ways to spice up PC sales and developers would love to port Android Apps to Google PC’s, the current state of Chrome OS is puzzling.
I asked a couple of tech gurus what they thought about this and why Google wasn’t more aggressive.
You have to give Google credit for pushing hard a machine that is completely tied to the Web platform. ChromeOS is basically the Chrome browser on metal, but getting an OEM ecosystem to put such machines out shows that Google is serious about improving the Web platform and so are its partners.
In theory you can make the case that locked down machines like this have some security advantages and may be attractive in some settings. The problem is that the Web is where most security dangers originate, so it is still not clear who is the obvious target audience.
Of course, if a flexible app platform evolves then you have another competing platform for consumers that is primarily oriented towards sit-down computing, much like Windows.
[Regarding why Google isn’t challenging Microsoft directly now]..They are. It is called Android. The market for sit-down computing is relatively saturated. The market for inexpensive touch-oriented devices is where the growth is right now, thus tablets.
It seems to me that Chrome OS, while not highly polished, pretty strongly demonstrates where Google is headed. It’s not a fat-client OS, it’s a thin OS with the entire focal point being the Google services (and third-party services) provided through the Chrome browser – enabling the browser to expand onto the desktop and provide an “app-like” experience for Web-based services.
In many ways, I think that Chrome OS is still young, and Google recognizes it is young, and seems to couch it as such as it keeps building out the OS, Chrome, and features between them and the Web. Even putting the current UI aside, I’m not sure – for non-desktop bound users – that Chrome OS is ready yet in terms of being their every-day OS when we still have transient Internet access in many places.
[Regarding why Google isn’t challenging Microsoft directly now]..Likely the same reason – that even with the distaste some users have for Windows 8 and the touch-driven full-screen UI, it is more viable as it is than Chrome OS would be for most users.
Interesting points of view.
I have always been a big believer in the concept of competition making the marketplace more efficient and better. Surely it can’t be healthy for Microsoft to be the dominant desktop Operating System for this long?
If one was more cynical, one would speculate that a lot of the distress around Windows Vista and Windows 8 originates from the fact that Microsoft has had no competitor to sharpen their skills against. It actually makes sense.
How do you know what the next level of evolution is if you have no independent validation of what the norm is?
I would argue that even Apple used Microsoft as an example of the things they didn’t want to do and the very process of setting themselves apart from Windows is what helped the company become as unique and innovative as it did.
Now I know people are quick to say that the desktop is dead or dying and everyone is moving to tablets and mobile devices. I have 2 things to say about that.
- First, the volume of desktop sales worldwide is still significant (albeit diminishing annually).
- Second, laptops are mobile devices too and they use desktop Operating Systems as well. No sane person sees laptops going anywhere any time soon.
I think Microsoft need some competition in the desktop space and Google is one of the few companies in the world that is financially able and strategically placed to challenge them.
I just don’t know what they’re waiting for.
What about you? What do you think?
Use the comments below and give me your feedback…