Microsoft: The Assassin of Google's Chrome OS

Thin is in again. At least that's the message I'm taking away from the full-frontal media orgy surrounding last week's Chrome OS demo. Virtually everyone who's anyone is now singing the praises of the smaller, lighter, Web-centric desktop model at the heart of Google's still unreleased "Windows killer." And that includes Microsoft.

In fact, the folks up in Redmond are doubtless watching the entire spectacle with amusement. After months spent shadowboxing a Chrome OS vaporware ghost, the company finally has a tangible, non-ethereal target to shoot at. And shoot it will -- with both barrels.

The assault will begin with a faux olive branch. Microsoft will welcome Google to the game and emphasize how they're really not competitors because Chrome OS is targeted at a niche market. But behind the scenes, Microsoft will be quietly marshaling its troops for war. Its first order of battle will be to fire up the FUD engines and lay siege to Google's credibility.

The opening salvo will try to tie Chrome OS to desktop Linux, an unpopular platform and one that Microsoft vanquished early in the netbook revolution. By emphasizing the ugly Linux underpinnings of Chrome OS, the company can scare away less technical customers who are used to a computing environment that works seamlessly with virtually any device or peripheral.

Microsoft will then parlay this fear of incompatibility into a referendum on customer choice. Company executives will hit the interview circuit talking about the need to preserve customer investments in Windows applications and technologies, and how Microsoft is delivering the best of both worlds by offering a less jarring transition path to the cloud. Here, Microsoft's investments in technologies like App-V will finally pay off as they deliver the kinds of rich application experiences that Google and its "API du jour" partners can only dream about.

Then, after painting Chrome OS as yet another ill-conceived power grab by "those egomaniacs in Mountain View," Microsoft will announce its own, stripped-down OS for cloud computing. Based on the widely supported Windows kernel and incorporating lessons learned from is various MinWin initiatives, this lightweight OS (Midori?) will leverage the range of Microsoft technologies to deliver a hybrid experience that transcends both PCs and the Web.

Microsoft will offer this new OS to systems manufacturers as a less risky alternative to Chrome OS. If it comes down to it, the company will happily give this "Windows Lite" away for free -- to help put the final nails in the Google coffin.

Note: Microsoft used a similar tactic with Internet Explorer and Windows Server/IIS to thwart the Netscape threat. When in doubt, go with what you know.

Of course, the preceding is just one man's opinion. I fully expect to be assailed from all corners of the Web for daring to question Google's inexorable ascendancy. However, before you dismiss my post as the ranting of a rabid Windows fan boy (ha, that's a good one!), consider this: All the Microsoft technology pieces I mentioned above exist today. The company could build a Chrome OS killer tomorrow from just the parts it has lying around on its lab floor.

By contrast, Google is betting on an alphabet soup of unproven APIs, many of which are still on the drawing boards of their respective W3C committees. Even if the Mountain View pixies can force all of these stars into alignment, they'll still face an uphill battle in their effort to loosen Microsoft's stranglehold on the low end of the PC market.

And that's why I believe that MinWin will trump Chrome OS and that the "great Google threat of 2010" will end up being just another footnote in the annals of Microsoft world domination.

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