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Google's Chrome OS May Fail Even as It Changes Computing Forever

Google’s Chrome OS may Fail even as it Changes Computing Forever
Google says it is working on an operating system designed for netbooks that boots in seconds, is impervious to viruses, and is designed to run Web-based applications really well. What's not to like? Plenty--if you're the number one software maker, Microsoft. Expect a showdown. Google faces an uphill battle rolling out its operating system, Chrome OS. The irony is, Google may not care if Chrome OS succeeds or fails. Here's why.

What's amazing about Google's Chrome OS is that, despite what little is actually known about it, its announcement has turned the computer and software industry on its ear. The industry--and consumers--just want to love it. Google says chip makers Qualcomm and Texas Instruments, PC makers Acer and Hewlett-Packard, and software developers such as Adobe are collaborating on designing and building Chrome OS devices.

Google's big bet for the Chrome OS is that it can spur a new market for software, such as Google Docs, that can run entirely in a Web browser. It hopes we will rely on these Web services for storing work files, personal photos, and music on an always-on connected Internet. Want access to your photos or spreadsheets? Easy--just turn on your netbook, and there it is. No longer will we be chained by an ethernet cord to a bulky Windows PC. The Chrome OS future is about lightweight mobile PCs and devices always connected to the Web, giving you instant access to your data and applications in the so-called cloud.

Chrome to Ride Netbook Juggernaut

Chrome OS is hitching a ride on the fast-growing netbook segment of the computer industry. While notebook sales are flat, according to market research firm DisplaySearch, netbook sales are soaring with sales growing by 260 percent worldwide this year alone.

Nothing has been announced, but next year, don't be surprised if HP is selling dirt-cheap Chrome OS netbooks married to a wireless plan from Verizon Wireless. Sure, netbook makers and wireless carriers are already offering netbook giveaway promotions. But Google will have an advantage because Chrome OS will be free and the hardware requirements for running it are expected to be minimal, letting companies such as HP build ultracheap computers.

In this way Google hopes to do for the notebook what Apple has done with the iPhone--revolutionize the wireless industry by creating a Chrome OS device married to a source for apps like the iTunes App Store. Google's next stop after the netbook, it says, is the desktop.

But a lot can happen between now and late 2010, when Google says Chrome OS will be ready.

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