Google gave the world a glimpse of its open source, Linux based, Chrome operating system today. While much of Chrome’s development is progressive and will make computing faster, easier, and more secure, the degree to which it deviates from today’s standard computing platforms and methods seriously endangers its chance of widespread adoption and ability to compete with Windows. Seemingly built upon the Chrome web browser, the OS operates entirely on web applications, ditching traditional locally installed software for that hosted within the cloud. While Chrome may find and thrive in a niche market, such as that of Netbooks, the ideas upon which it is based preclude any immediate threat to Microsoft’s Windows franchise.
For more than 30 years, personal computing has had a “personal” flavor. People can sit at “their” PC’s, run “their” wholly owned applications, and create and store “their” data. Although the growth of the Internet and expansion of “cloud computing” has and will continue to revolutionize the world for the better, it won’t quickly undo decades of habit and IT infrastructure development. People don’t want to own thin clients or dumb terminals, which is essentially into what the Chrome OS turns any PC onto which it is installed. And giving Google control of even more of data may not sit well with privacy advocates. Despite all its positive features, the fact that Google’s Chrome OS is so heavily based within the cloud could, at least in the relatively short term, be its Achilles heal, granting Microsoft many more years of dominance in the operating system market.
Let’s not discount the massive paradigm shift Google’s Chrome OS may cause. The company proved with its Chrome web browser (to which I and Sony have exclusively migrated) that it can enter a market and quickly create a product superior than that offered by the incumbents. The Chrome OS will be fast, secure, and easy to use. Diagnostics and automatic software updates (or restoration in case of problems) upon system boot, coupled with a lack of access to core OS files granted to software will, at least initially, stall many of today’s incarnations of viruses and malware. Google says that the Chrome OS, once initial development is finished sometime next year, will only be installed on new computers with solid state hard drives. The OS will share the Chrome browser’s extremely simple and intuitive tabbed user interface. Complete boot times will be just a few seconds. Check out the video below for more on Chrome.
It seems pretty clear that Chrome won’t be threatening Windows anytime soon. Steve Ballmer knows this. But with the full backing of Google and that company’s desire to improve the performance and way things on the web are done, who knows what the future holds.