Chrome coloured Windows, anyone?

July 9th, 2009

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The New York Times wrote in its editorial - There is a kind of bloodthirsty thrill in learning that Google plans to develop a personal computer operating system to compete with Microsoft Windows.

That’s what it is, a bloodthirsty thrill. With Google announcing its intent to launch Chrome OS — an open source, lightweight operating system — for the netbooks by 2H10, we wonder whether Google can actually live in direct competition with Microsoft.

Google’s case

Think of it this way, Chrome OS comes with the promise to expand the usage of web-based apps and services, stimulating search and page view volumes, which are critical to Google’s ad-based monetisation strategy. Second, this move exerts a price and margin pressure on Microsoft’s netbooks business plan unerringly when Win7 launch is just around the corner. Lastly, Chrome OS will ensure a continued availability of its search, apps and services even if Microsoft insists on a tighter coupling of Win7 and Bing.

Already, over 30 million people are using Google’s Chrome browser, says Sundar Pichai, VP Product Management, Engineering Director on Google’s official blog.

You might have noticed that Google has also done away with the “Beta” label from its Google Apps such as Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar and Google Talk. This move, we believe, sends out a signal to enterprise buyers that Google apps has reached a degree of maturity and that it should be considered as a viable option to Microsoft Exchange and Office. Enterprises could find Google’s cloud-based app strategy compelling if the total cost of ownership of software, infrastructure and support services remain attractive.

Microsoft’s case

The strongest segments of the PC market have been the netbooks followed closely by consumption in the emerging markets. The lower-priced version of Windows XP is the only operating system that currently runs on netbooks. However, Windows 7 OS, when it is released, will also run on netbooks and allows Microsoft the ability to re-evaluate product and pricing for netbooks.

It is widely expected that a version of Windows 7 will have a price in line with the current XP version, to help Microsoft get an easy entry in the netbook space. Win7 is also said to fix many of Vista’s problems, including better ease of navigation, start-up time, general performance, and compatibility.

Microsoft too believes that as economy improves, the new Win7 could help spur PC and thereby the company revenues.

The verdict

Google’s new Chrome OS has grown directly out of its browser, also called Chrome, which was introduced last year. Google could see lasting benefits by bringing together incremental traffic through its OS and applications. The technical drawback that stares Google in the eye is that 70 per cent of enterprise applications cannot run in a browser (Google’s Chrome is essentially a browser-based OS) and there are major limitations to the amount of computing that can be done within a browser today. Experts also allege that while the Linux kernel underneath Chrome OS could be packaged up with a suite of peripheral driver controllers, it is not clear who, if anyone, would provide on-going patches, critical bug fixes and other updates for Chrome OS on Linux.

Seems like Microsoft will not let the Google Chrome OS steal away the thunder.

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