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Google Chrome OS: Cheap & Standard

by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 07/09/2009

There’s an interesting article in The Register today by Ted Dziuba that puts down TechCrunch’s coverage of Google Chrome OS and rebutes the predicted impact by techwriter pundits—basically, doubting that the installed Microsoft base will ever switch off of Excel because of years invested in macros.

The point that he’s missing is that Google’s actual strategy is not to take on Microsoft head-to-head, but rather to create the long, slow burn, based on cheap machines that fill a NEW market segment—the ubiquitious, nearly disposable net surfing computer. It’s probably a 10+ year strategy that Google has in mind, and the OS component is only enough to get the system booted. The push to get Linux onto the current crop of netbooks failed, for a variety of reasons. But prime among them was the lack of a defacto standard Linux distribution that is predictable and consistent enough to constitute a viable platform for developers.

There are so many layers of abstraction and protection these days in hardware and operating systems that it doesn’t really make a difference if your programs are making their API calls through a browser or an operating system. It’s all just semantics, and API’s that make calls to OpenGL through the browser will run every bit as well as on a “native” desktop, after optimizations. He bemomans his inability to play WorldOfWarcraft and DVDs in his browser today.

But that’s just today. The necessary step for those optimizations to occur, turning the browser into a viable high-performance platform only come after a standardized and consistent code-base has a critical mass of users (Linux’s biggest problem given all the distributions) so that it attracts enough developers. It’s what the iPhone just went through as an alternative computing platform—so we absolutely know that it CAN happen in new market segments. And that process is exactly what the ubiquitious/cheap/always-on net tablet needs to go through.

Ted says that the appeal of a platform like this is why Linux with Firefox have taken such hold in the consumer market. Really? Wasn’t that called the first couple of versions of the Asus Eee—and everything after that has had Windows installed due to Microsoft’s reaction and lowering of their Windows licensing fees for netbooks, coupled with Linux not really being as appealing as it seemed at first glance? I had one. It wasn’t instant-on. The version of Linux was terrible. The screen was too small. It wasn’t going to attract dedicated developers.

With Google leading the charge, making instant-on a reality, and forcing all activity through the browser layer, while still allowing for execution of native code, and access to all the API’s that you could do through an operating system, it just could happen.

If you can pick up a device for $200 (or even free, if subsidized by some sort of service subscription) that works a lot like a 10-inch iphone, and is just perfect for surfing the net, do you care if it runs your Excel macros from work? You can have one in each room, including the bathroom.