The Spin Cycle

Google Chrome OS - All You Need is Web

Blog Via Email | November 24, 2009

Google announced the release of Chrome OS to the open source community last Thursday (November 19). This release is far from a finished product and Google said it doesn't expect to ship it on machines until late 2010. This release has been about getting the community involved in the development of the OS as well as drumming up some publicity for its eventually full release.

Google's Gone Loco...

With the release of the OS code and some previews of how the OS functions, many in the industry have been left scratching their heads thinking Google are crazy. I've personally been trying to digest the implications of what this OS means. Obviously, this OS shows Google is still pushing their ideology of having the web as the ultimate software development platform but they have out done themselves by allowing no room at all for native applications on the OS. This means no native Skype app, no native word processor, not even a native calculator. So if you want your application to appear on Chrome OS you are going to have to develop for the web.

Chrome OS is a paradigm shift. Why critics are thinking Google is crazy is because they think no one will want this OS let alone want to purchase a computer with this as the primary (and only) OS.

Google is not lining Chrome OS up to be the OS on your primary computer (yet) but rather the OS of choice for your secondary computer which Google believes you will spend more time on as it will handle your day-to-day activities perfectly. Plus it will be super fast, secure and simple (once you stop wondering how to install Skype).

Why the Web?

So why are Google are pushing the web as the only platform to develop software? We'll they do have the a number of superior applications in this space and their advertising empire is based around people interacting with the web. Can it just be a move to ensure a prosperous future for themselves? Being the biggest fish in the pond are they just trying to make the pond bigger?

Important Factors for Success

To have this paradigm shift take place it's going to need numbers. Google needs to push a huge number of units. They also need these numbers to matter so application developers can't ignore the fact that their apps need to work well for the web. And vice-versa. Google needs a higher quality of apps available on the web so they can push more units. This is a Catch 22 situation which will probably mean Google is going to have to push really hard for one side to take off first as it's more than likely not going to happen naturally. This could mean the subsidising of units.

One crucial factor of success is the continued evolution of the web as an application developing platform. Web applications need more access to the features housed inside computers such as cameras, graphics processors, accelerometers, etc. Without more access, web apps are considerably handicapped compared to their native app counterparts. This, however, is not an issue for all types of applications. Web apps also need more capabilities when there is no internet connectivity.

The Future of Chrome OS

More than likely the OS will take off slowly on release. It will at least sell some units as the price point will be right whereby anyone curious will be able to pick one up and play with it as it's not going to break the bank. The product and the publicity behind it will remind developers of the benefits of the web and that in itself will be a win for Google despite how low the unit numbers may seem.

This platform however is not going to go away no matter how bad it may launch - it's definitely here to stay. It will morph over time but it's hard not imagine it moving in the direction of a phone OS as well where it could conceivably compete, merge or even replace Google's current phone OS - Android.

Whatever happens is still any ones guess. It's a brave and bold move by Google and only time will tell if the critics are right in calling them crazy.


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