Reuters has an article out today claiming that Google's Chrome is set to challenge Microsoft Windows' domination of the PC operating system market. Google has had a great deal of success with its online programs. Many believe Google's software designers have outshined those at Microsoft when it comes to e-mail, searching, mapping, etc. But can it take the operating system market by storm with its new Google Chrome software? It won't be easy.
Reuters says that Google has a very specific plan of attack:
Google, which already offers a suite of e-mail, Web and other software products that compete with Microsoft, said on Tuesday it would launch a new operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks.
And in case you didn't know, Reuters explains:
Netbooks are low-cost notebook PCs designed for Internet surfing and other Web-based applications.
That's an interesting strategy. The quickly growing netbook market seems like prime territory to begin distributing a new operating system into the market. Most U.S. consumers are realizing that they rarely use their computers for much beyond internet surfing, e-mail and word processing, which makes cheaper, more portable netbooks very attractive. The drawback of netbooks, however, is that they generally have less memory than laptops. That difference really matters when they come pre-loaded with an operating system like Windows, infamous for hogging memory.
So given their growing popularity and need for a more efficient operating system, netbooks seem like a logical choice for Google Chrome. But here's the problem: it hasn't seemed to work for Linux.
Last year, I helped my mother research netbooks for my father's Christmas gift. I remember that I found one that looked perfect, except that it ran Linux. Like most baby boomers, my parents tend to like their computer usage to be as easy as possible. As a result, the prospect of my father having to learn a new operating system didn't seem like the greatest idea. We got him a different one instead, preloaded with Windows XP.
Back then, around eight months ago, I remember a significant number of netbooks preloaded with Linux instead of Windows. I just did a quick search on Best Buy's website: not a single one had Linux preinstalled. I must not have been the only one to shy away from purchasing a netbook with an unfamiliar operating system. Netbook makers have chosen to favor Windows almost exclusively on their machines.
Anyone who I've ever talked to that uses Linux swears it's better than Windows. So I don't think that its failure to succeed in the netbook market has anything to do with its quality. It's about change. Netbook users want a machine that's very easy to use. I worry that even if Google Chrome is an amazing product, it might follow the same path Linux did with netbooks.
Does that mean that Windows will always be the dominant operating system for computers? Apple might have something to say about that. As their computers gain popularity, it seems like the barrier to learning a new operating system must be weakening.
If Google wants to succeed in the operating system market, it should attempt to emulate what Apple has done, and that won't be easy. Part of Apple's allure is their sleek, stylish machines. By putting Chrome on clunky PC laptops or netbooks, that advantage won't be emulated. One possibility to consider might be if Google aligned itself with Sony and paired Chrome on their slick VAIO laptops. I'm not sure if Sony is willing to take that risk, however.
Another way Apple has been successful is through its operating system avoiding viruses and malware that plague PCs. If Google's operating system also manages to ensure that PCs could be virus-free, that would also be an attractive perk to many. That is a purported advantage of Chrome according to their press release. Time will tell whether it lives up to the hype.