Noise or Music?

The Google Chrome operating system

Categories: GA & GTM / Comments: 12

I rarely comment on news, preferring instead to trial, demonstrate and collect my thoughts before writing a blog article. However this piece of news from the official Google blog is potentially so big, I wanted to add my comments straight away (and I was a web developer in a previous life)….

Yesterday, Google announced it is developing a new computer operating system and I am sure that created quite a shockwave at Microsoft’s HQ in Seattle:

Building a new operating system for the desk top market is a huge task – not so much from a technical point of view for a company such as Google (the company built its own operating system to run the Google infrastructure from day one – based on unix), rather the driving of user adoption where others have struggled for the past 20 years. Anyone remember OS/2…?

The history of the Mac is a case in point – only in the past 2 years has its operating system (OS X) taken off in significant numbers. Released in 2002, I would suggest the primary reason for its current adoption spurt is down to the gorgeous looks of its latest hardware, rather than any great features of OS X (a proprietary derivative of unix). Ubantu is another recent addition to the OS market, though its market share for desktops/laptops is currently tiny.

Will users switch to Google Chrome?

Without great looking hardware, asking users to switch to a new operating system is a tough challenge. Kudos to Sundar Pichai (VP Product Management) and Linus Upson (Engineering Director) and the rest of the Google engineering team for taking the plunge and committing to this project. Clearly they are initially going after the netbook and laptop market – where a lighter OS footprint is required and where it makes sense to compliment Android. It’s also a nascent place where users are less loyal to any particular OS. For example, I love my MacBook, but the iPhone had to go back and be replaced with a Blackberry (the touch screen keyboard drove me nuts!).

There is a good possibility Google could make its Chrome OS a success. The ethos of usability (i.e. ergonomics) is a very strong driving force at Google. And putting the end-user first is a great winner for business as they have shown – it gives away its products for free yet makes $20 billion a year turn over! (It never ceases to amaze me why is it so hard for other companies to follow suite – that is, put the end user first, then build a business model around that).

Does this make Google too powerful?

Although I am eagerly awaiting the release of the Chrome OS (2010), I must admit the potential dominance Google is building for itself with its operating systems for desktops and mobile, browser, advertising networks (Adwords, Adsense), gmail, gtalk, calendar, docs, Google Apps, is starting to get a tad scary… Despite such high quality products, such dominance of the digital market place cannot be good – can it?

What do you think?

(P.S. Google – I wish you would release a version of the Chrome browser for my Mac…)

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Comments (most recent first)

  1. r4 says:

    This is great news!. It shouldn’t matter if you are a Microsoft fan, or a Google fan, the fact is, this sort of competition will drive down prices, and open the market up for better products with a wider selection.

  2. Robert says:

    This is crazy news – but I just read that its going to be open-source. Basically like linux – at least for netbooks that is.

    I wonder if they’ll roll out a full laptop/desktop OS in the near future too?

    Obviously they’ve just missed the competition from windows7 and snow leopard but give it 2 years and I think they might.

  3. I agree with u that Google chrome is good. But i think there is a drawback. It can be run only win xp effectively not even on win 2000.

  4. Deepak Nayak says:

    well..a very interesting move from google regarding it’s dominance in the desktop market via the chrome os.But nevertheless it’ll definitely take some years to dominate the market where already big players like MS,linux,MAC are there…

    But google has both the money & power to do so……
    So in my view GOOGLE is gone rock the world very of luck to the GOOGLERS…………

  5. Justin says:

    I’m actually not thrilled with this new OS. Not that I have used it or know much about it, just the fact that I am a firm believer in economies of scale. Google does google well and should stick to their fortes. That’s why In & Out Burger is thriving and BK/McDonald’s are nothing to brag to your friend about, they stay where things work. I hope you guys don’t water yourselves down.

    On another note, I’m almost through with your GA book, it’s very insightful!

    • BClifton says:

      Justin: That’s a good point, but I wouldn’t want to see innovation stifled without at least trying. At the end of the day, only successful products bubble to the top of Google’s prioritization list to receive further engineering resources. For example Gmail started off with just two guys working on it 20% (1 day a week) of their time!

      The Andriod OS has been a much needed breath of fresh air – breaking the mould of the operators wishing to tie down users for no good reason other than to make more money out of them. Perhaps Chrome can do the same for the rest of us…? I want to stick with an OS that I like, not one that ties me down…

  6. Alex says:

    “I must admit the potential dominance Google is building for itself with its operating systems […] is starting to get a tad scary… […] [S]uch dominance of the digital market place cannot be good – can it?”

    What about Microsoft’s current dominance/monopoly? As long as the user has the choice to add/remove components, I see no problem with that.

  7. Desi says:

    Thought provoking analysis. I tweeted about it.

  8. Mark says:

    You can download a beta versions of Chrome for Mac here:

  9. Steve R says:

    I think it is interesting news. However, they are creating a whole lot of “talk” about something that is not even released yet.
    It will be interesting to see what the final product looks like.
    It took them 5 years to get GMail out of Beta, so I think it will be years before they will have a solid platform that can truly compete with Microsoft or OsX.

  10. The issue of technical capability and indeed gorgeousness are important on any new operating system. However, the average Joe – for which I expect this operating system will initially be aimed at only want the ability to turn on a computer and use the functions of browsing, emailing, a bit of word processing and maybe some music. Most of which Google can provide.

    Google have the clout and the money to buy their way out of problems, and buy market share. Remember, their TV adverts for Chrome? In this new ‘age’ anything is possible.

  11. BClifton says:

    Nice summary and comment of the buzz this announcement has created:

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