Last week saw the introduction of a new operating system that will probably change the landscape over the course of the next few years. While it won’t replace Windows on the desktop anytime soon, Microsoft still needs to be scared.
When Google’s Chrome OS will appear on netbooks in a year from now, it first will abolish the so-called Microsoft tax on these devices. But while that’s nothing Microsoft really has to fear, Chrome OS will also create an entirely new device category – something in between smartphones and netbooks.
That’s not exactly the market Apple aims for with the long-awaited tablet (and Mike Arrington with his infamous CrunchPad). It’s also different from Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook. In fact Google is about to create a new market segment for small, lightweight and cheap devices like the current netbooks, but without the hassle of running a full-blown operating system.
Who cares that the iPhone doesn’t run Mac OS X? Or that Android isn’t a desktop operating system? I’m pretty sure there is a market segment above smartphones, but below small notebooks. Over the last few years, the mobile gadget space and the notebook space have moved in opposite directions, with smartphones growing in funtionality and notebooks getting smaller.
Chrome OS is just the logical operating system for the netbook category that might grow larger and larger with even cheaper devices (no Microsoft tax). Netbooks running Chrome OS are just perfect as the second or third computer for many people – and maybe even the first computer or the computer many people spend most of their computer usage time with.
That’s basically the vision Oracle’s Larry Ellison touted in the late nineties for his so-called Network Computer. I think the vision is still valid, even though it failed to materialise so far. But what’s different now is the metaphorical layer. It’s not „The Network is the Computer“ but „The Browser is the Desktop“. Google tries to crack the age-old desktop metaphor. And that is what Microsoft really has to fear.
There are other things as well to worry about for the PC OS incumbent. First of all, Chrome OS is free. This fact alone poses a threat to Microsoft which still makes a lot of money from selling Windows. And it’s open source, thus solving the problem to get enough developers on the boat. Next, it moves almost everything to the cloud, where Microsoft despite its Azure efforts isn’t a strong player as of today.
That’s why Chrome OS is a Game Changer. I agree that there is quite a bit gambling at stake, but in the long run I think Google will be the clear winner. One of the next big issues you can expect Google to tackle is the connectivity problem. Of course there will be Chrome-powered netbooks packaged with mobile data plans. That’s a common model with today’s netbooks. But I think we can expect even more innovation in the mobile business from Google.