Everyone has been weighing in on the Google announcement of Chrome. Why last night even the News Hour on PBS did a short sales job on Google. They called it “Cloud Computing could Transform Data storage, Internet use”. The idea was selling software as an online service with all your data housed on the servers of a remote data center might change the software publishing business. The timing of this story on the heels of Chrome OS was a little too convenient. I wouldn’t have minded so much by Google CEO Eric Schmidt makes two appearances in the piece to argue on behalf of Google’s view of the Future of Computing. In some ways the whole piece comes of as a sales promotion for Cloud Computing.
Meanwhile on the Interwebs, I have entered into at least one discussion with an avid Google user who is swallowing the Google propaganda. I pointed out how poorly the first generation netbooks sold once unsuspecting or naively hopeful buyers tried to use them with the default Linux derived OSes installed on them. I’m not saying the majority of the early adopters were unprepared to adapt to a new operating system. But in fact after trying to adapt, they gave up and returned the computers. A mad scrambe occured to get a version of Windows on the next revs of the netbooks and voila! Microsoft entered a new market for the so-called ‘netbooks’ completely without trying. That is the end user/market inertia equivalent of falling into riches. Microsoft never saw this market, instead concentrated on the desktops and smart phones. Out of nowhere Asus and Acer along with all the other Taiwan manufacturers created a new product, trying to make it cheap they chose a Linux derived operating system. But the customer is always right. The customer learned how to use a computer on a Windows OS of some sort, old habits die hard.
So will Chrome OS beat the odds and succeed where Acer and Asus failed? Will they drive the next wave of innovation and make an OS that a Windows user won’t find unusable? I doubt it for a number of reasons. First off let’s address what you get with Windows in the ‘multimedia’ category. You buy a Windows OS, you get a whole layer of stuff in there called DirectX. It helps you play games, play audio, watch video all that stuff. You move from Windows to a Linux derived OS you get a loose aggregation of individual progams some of which play certain file types. Some require special program language libraries to be installed to work properly. There’s many dependencies, vast differences in the User Interfaces, and darned little of it is integrated into a seamless whole. If Google can bridge that gap, maybe the transition won’t be so onerous for the new Google Chrome OS users.
“Chrome is basically a modern operating system,” Mr. Andreessen said.
The first wave of netbooks relied on various versions of the open-source Linux operating system, and major PC makers like Hewlett-Packard and Dell have backed the Linux software. Intel, the world’s largest chip maker, has worked on developing a Linux-based operating system called Moblin as well. The company has aimed the software at netbooks and smartphones in a bid to spur demand for its Atom mobile device chip.