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Google Chrome OS: Winners and Losers

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chromeosWhen  major events unfold, and  Google’s  Chrome OS announcement certainly qualifies,  I  like to take a look at who stands  to gain and who stands to lose, both to get a feel for  how  the event affects the future and how others could react.  So who reaps the rewards in this  and who gets hit with a stick? Here are my thoughts:

LOSER – Microsoft: Okay, that one’s a gimme, but it is critical to note that Microsoft has never faced a major competitor in the consumer OS market. No offense to the Linux supporters, but the Linux vendors have not been a major threat to Microsoft and even the opening with Microsoft’s netbook fumble has garnered minimal market penetration. And Apple limits their operating systems to their own products, so they’re not a direct competitor. No, Microsoft has been sitting comfortably on a near-monopoly for more than a decade. Now they face a powerful opponent entering the market in an area where Microsoft has shown great weakness, i.e., handhelds, netbooks and other low-powered computers. Chrome OS won’t take down Windows, but it could break its iron grip.

LOSER – Linux vendors and proponents: If Chrome OS was a Linux build, then you’d have yourselves a powerful champion. But it’s not, so you don’t. It’s built on the Linux kernel, but so is Android, which is not a flavor of Linux. Also, it’s likely to lure many netbook and MID vendors away from custom Linux builds completely. But at least Chrome OS will be open source.

LOSER – CrunchPad: CrunchPad is a tablet computer that boots straight to web browsing. Chrome OS will allow any computer to boot straight to web browsing. No reason the two can’t co-exist, but it obviously detracts from the CrunchPad’s novelty. Also, someone sank money into making a custom OS that Google is aiming to render obsolete. That’s gotta hurt.

WINNER – Cloud computing: Chrome OS is designed specifically for cloud computing. Google will likely be the main beneficiary of this, but other web application services, such as Evernote and Zoho, will also benefit as it becomes easier to use web-based apps.

WINNER (somewhat) – Apple: Again, Apple does not compete directly in the consumer OS market. They also do not offer a netbook and are open to letting other operating systems run on Macs, so Chrome OS and Mac OS X can easily co-exist. Seems like they’d be fairly unaffected by the news, except that the Chrome web browser is based on the WebKit engine. Though not stated, it’s pretty safe to assume Chrome OS will also use WebKit. This gives a higher profile to the engine, which benefits Apple since it’s the one they helped develop and use. Anything good for WebKit is good for Apple.

WINNER – PC makers looking to get out from under Microsoft: The lackluster sales of Vista and Microsoft’s sub-par support for emerging form factors, such as netbooks and UMPCs, left a lot of PC makers stuck in the mud. Google Chrome OS won’t be a cure-all for them, but it is an option with a name consumers will recognize. Update: Google posted the list of PC makers hoping to get on the winner’s bus.

WINNER – Us! Chrome OS is expected to sip power and run quickly on limited hardware. Even though it’s web-centric, there’s no doubt that it will integrate Gears (formerly Google Gears), allowing data to be stored, accessed, and in many cases, manipulated locally, so you’ll still have your data even if you can’t connect. These are great benefits for mobile computer users, particularly for the fledgling MID market, but also for the many casual users who just want to get on the web. Chrome OS could reach a lot of users and could help make cheap Internet devices as commonplace as TVs.

Don’t think others will directly see much upside or detriment. Yahoo! can’t like the idea of another Google OS, but more web usage is good for them. There’s no direct effect on smartphones, though it may indirectly affect the market by leading to breakthroughs in Android. Still, my list is hardly exhaustive. If you  have any picks, let  us know.

Alleged Apple fanboi, accused Android apologist, and confirmed Microsoft MVP for touch and tablet Mark Sumimoto a.k.a. Sumocat dabbles in all areas of mobile computing with a focus on Windows-based Tablet PCs and pen input. A mobile computing enthusiast since 2004, he pioneered the field of ink blogging via his personal blog, Sumocat's Scribbles. His current tools include a Fujitsu Lifebook T900, TEGA v2, and iPhone 4. Email: sumocat [at] notebooks.com

18 Comments

  1. Urban Strata

    07/08/2009 at 7:29 pm

    I have to strongly disagree with several of the points in this post:

    1. Microsoft is a “loser?” I think you vastly underestimate Microsoft’s ability to compete, or you haven’t tried 7 yet, or both. I’m sure there are folks up in Redmond who saw Google’s news, nodded their heads and said, “Yep, just as we expected. Now we roll up our sleeves and get back to work.”

    2. Apple is a winner and doesn’t compete directly in the consumer space? Really? Have you never been to an Apple store in the mall? Obviously, Apple competes *directly* in the consumer space, it just doesn’t have much market share. And Chrome OS is much more likely to steal share from Apple customers who simply want a seamless and stable, non-Windows OS than it to steal Windows stalwarts. Apple is the real potential loser here.

    3. Consumers are ultimately winners? I hope so. But I sure wish Google would have put its efforts into an existing Linux distribution like Ubuntu rather than developing an entirely new fork of its own. And what if Chrome OS is littered with ads…? As much as I love many Google products, I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop that reveals their revenue model.

    Yes, Google’s Chrome OS has the potential to be a game-changer. But I think it’s quite premature to already be stating winners and losers.

  2. gorkon

    07/08/2009 at 8:35 pm

    Linux SHOULD be a winner here as CHROME OS IS A LINUX BUILD!

    http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/introducing-google-chrome-os.html

  3. Sumocat

    07/08/2009 at 9:09 pm

    Urban Strata:

    1. Windows 7 looks great, but did they optimize a version for netbooks? Whatever happened to the Origami Project? Seems like ultra-mobile and/or low-cost computing are not worth their time.

    2. As for Apple, I specified consumer *OS* market. Big difference. Apple sells computers. They compete against PCs, not necessarily against Windows. Their OS is support for that business, not direct competition to Windows. If otherwise, well, $30 for Snow Leopard beats $50 pre-order for Windows 7. Good thing they aren’t in direct competition.

  4. Modnar

    07/09/2009 at 4:04 am

    So I think this has to be said for laughs…..

    So is Chrome (the browser) going to be bundled (and or tied) to the operating system? :P

    If so spot an anti competitive complaint coming …

    Still I wonder how this will turn out guess no tablet inking on this OS.

  5. GoodThings2Life

    07/09/2009 at 4:36 am

    @Sumocat, as a matter of fact, the entire OS is “optimized” for mobile/portable hardware. Windows 7 runs at least as well as XP on the same hardware, and decidedly better than Vista in every aspect on the same hardware. The only thing I would argue isn’t optimized is the price, but then again, that’s not as big a factor on the OEM side of things anyway or else Linux would be and have fared better already.

    I’m not going to start bashing Chrome OS yet since it’s not even out in any sort of preview form to judge, but every so-called attempt to compete in the OS world has fallen by the wayside. They have a lot more work to do if they want to get it right, and on top of that they’re going to have to do something they’re not very good at … develop stable software that isn’t “beta”.

  6. frblckstr

    07/09/2009 at 4:38 am

    @sumocat
    W7 runs very good on my ASUS R2H, one of the first UMPC’s (e.g. Origami’s) out there, its even snappier then XP on it.
    No real need for further uptimisation, as current hardware is way better then that 3 year old machine.

    Looking at what Archos is trying with there 10″ tablet and W7 it might even work (I sure hope its lighter then my TC1000 :) )

  7. Sumocat

    07/09/2009 at 7:04 am

    GT2L and frblckstr: Windows XP wasn’t optimized for netbooks or UMPCs either, so that you find it comparable to Windows 7 supports my point. And without the Origami overlay, W7 should run faster on UMPCs than the heavier version of XP with Origami. Windows 7 is faster than XP, but that only means it’s a better OS, which I never doubted, doesn’t mean it’s optimized for these devices.

  8. Eve

    07/09/2009 at 8:04 am

    sorry for my ignorant question, but whenever i buy software it’s specified for Windows or Mac. So it would be awhile before a lot of the software (mostly graphics editing stuff) I use would be available on the Chrome OS, right?

  9. GoodThings2Life

    07/09/2009 at 12:14 pm

    @Sumocat… the Windows 7 Engineering blog has even posted about their efforts to “optimize” the mobile and ultra-mobile experience. Will it be as good as Chrome OS? I don’t know… COS isn’t out yet to experience.

    But my point is this… everybody is making a lot of assumptions about it just because it’s Google, and that’s a faulty premise, because we have virtually no information yet other than a bunch of promises and a list of OEM’s who are “on board with the idea”.

    I’ll be impressed once we have something tangible to experience, and once we see what the business model will be.

  10. GoodThings2Life

    07/09/2009 at 12:15 pm

    @Eve, you’re exactly right. Although Google will have you believe that Chrome OS and Google Apps is an end-all-be-all solution to most needs.

  11. Sumocat

    07/09/2009 at 1:12 pm

    GT2L: I appreciate the cautious approach, but let me specify I’m basing my assumptions on how Google operates, how this could benefit them, where their strengths lie, how they approached Android, and how this ties in with their underlying goal as a company. Yes, they could defy all previous patterns entirely, but it is logical to believe they will stay true to their proven paths. Or to quote Ordell Robbie: “You can’t trust Melanie but you can trust Melanie to be Melanie.”

    Eve: Safe bet is to not expect anything other than web-based apps for Chrome OS. At least early on, I expect casual use and/or low-cost to be the target market.

  12. GoodThings2Life

    07/09/2009 at 1:29 pm

    No, I get it, and I agree that Google has a pretty good track record when it comes to cloud computing.

    I’m just saying that doesn’t make them good at OS design, and it doesn’t suggest that they’ll be widely successful when people have a choice in the matter. People have this crazy tendency to stick with what’s familiar, whether it’s the right choice or not… why do you think we have the same politicians after every election?

    I look at Google Chrome as a web browser, and I see its distribution being the result of two types of users: the tech-savvy people like you and me who purposely download things like that, and the tech-stupid people who only have it because it came bundled with something else, and if you ask them if they use it they’ll ask what it is.

    I look at Google Apps and see an acceptable-in-a-pinch suite of apps, but I wouldn’t deploy them business-wide. For home use? I’d consider it for a true cheap-skate penny-pincher, but that’s about it.

  13. LeeN

    07/09/2009 at 3:43 pm

    The only upsides I see to Chrome OS, will be the start up times and the cost of the system that runs it (I’m guessing it will be cheaper, since it is an incredibly simple OS).

    Other then that, the down sides will be the limited things that can be done with it. All things that Chrome OS can do, such as check email(gmail, yahoo, hotmail, etc), edit documents (google docs), watch videos (youtube, hulu, etc), chat and twitter, other OSes will be able to do with the Chrome browser.

    Straight from googles blog :
    “The software architecture is simple — Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel. For application developers, the web is the platform. All web-based applications will automatically work and new applications can be written using your favorite web technologies. And of course, these apps will run not only on Google Chrome OS, but on any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux thereby giving developers the largest user base of any platform.”

    But those other OSes will also be able to do all the other things, to name a few of these:
    *Rip CD music.
    *Sync music to your mp3 player or ipod.
    *Play high end video games and MMOs like World of Warcraft.
    *Edit video from your camera.
    *Play blu-ray discs.

    Arguably these things could become obsolete or have RIAs equivalents in the future, but it’s going to be quite some time before that happens.

  14. CLC

    07/09/2009 at 6:47 pm

    People, get a grip. This is not (currently) an OS to compete with the full Windows. This is currently aimed at netbooks (or whatever people are calling them), which most people use to surf the web and get some basic document editing, music rearranging, picture viewing, etc. done. This is not (currently) an OS for graphics designers and their high powered computers. That MIGHT come later if more companies design web-based applications that mimic that kind of power; but, at the moment, the fact that it will deal with the cloud and only allow for offline storage of content through Gears and whatever else is not a make or a break for the current target audience, which are people who mostly surf the web.

    The rest of us can keep going with our Windows and Leopard and Unbuntu and etc. until we see any changes.

  15. CLC

    07/09/2009 at 6:56 pm

    *COS

  16. Sumocat

    07/09/2009 at 7:21 pm

    GT2L: Okay, but to be clear, I’m not making any claims on the quality of Chrome OS, just pointing out where and how it has potential.

  17. Techni

    07/11/2009 at 4:02 pm

    I say we are losers in this. More OS’s = less support

  18. marees

    07/13/2009 at 1:07 pm

    How com TechCrunch is a loser? They were working with Intel, who were aware of Chrome OS all along. If knowing about Chrome, Intel still didnt give any indication to TechCrunch, that means Intel were backing a project which was doomed to fail from the start. It is very unlikely?

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