Why Google Chrome OS will fail (on netbooks)

Matt Barton's picture

I've been keeping an eye on news developments about Google's attempt at a true-blue operating system, and came across an op-ed today called Five Reasons Google Chrome OS Will Fail on, of all things, Google News. The author does a good job here laying out the key challenges Google will face on the netbook front, and he makes the obvious parallel to this and Linux. I have stated my belief that Linux (or at least some free operating system) will eventually topple Microsoft, but so far that belief has had no basis in reality. Microsoft and, of all things, Macintosh, still reign supreme, with Linux and other free OS's representing only a tiny sliver of the pie. I guess Google felt that the netbook market was fairly open and the best place to charge in, and I have to agree with them. But just because it's the best place to charge doesn't mean they stand a chance.

I think the key here is the "net" in "netbook." While most people associate Microsoft with PCs, they tend to associate Google with the internet. Indeed, many people I talk to seem to think Google IS the internet. Having a dirt-cheap netbook out there with Google's branding all over it might well inspire those people to see it as a legitimate and trustworthy product for doing what a netbook should. In other words, surf the net, and take advantage of the many net services that are now very shabbily (ahem, Google Docs) trying to match Office (Microsoft or otherwise). In my opinion, this latter angle is the wrong one to take. Google Docs is just too far behind. Every time I use Google Docs I keep thinking--man, this is it? I would have expected it to be at least three or four times as good as it is now after regular updates and patchwork. It still feels like a 40% beta from a small company. Sure, it has great features, especially on the collaborative side, but it just feels cheap and the formatting just never seems to work out. I don't expect it to have all the redundant and seldom-used features of Word, but it should at least be stable and offer no grief when it comes to exporting and importing across formats. The silly thing doesn't even seem to handle tabs appropriately, much less tables.

But, anyway, I digress. I guess the key thing about netbooks is whether people really need them, even at a fantastically low price. Let's say it was $100; that's about as cheap as I can imagine at the moment for something with a color screen, working keyboard, and good enough innards to run Google Docs and YouTube. I think you'd be looking at just barely better web functionality than you can get on a good mobile phone, and certainly nowhere near what you'd get on a budget or used laptop from emachines or what have you. That said, if they could get it down to $50, a lot of possibilities start opening up, especially for kids, travelers, and grandparents and the like. I mean, at that price you just buy one for a trip and throw it away when you're done; we're getting into "disposable" territory here. I guess it'd be like buying a disposable camera; sure, you're not going to get rid of your HDV, but if you just want and need a quick and dirty solution it's great. If you're with the family at the beach and want to surf the net while your kids surf the waves, $50 isn't so bad for something that will end up getting wet and sandy. So, yeah, I can see some definite potential, but so many "ifs."

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Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Here's a good piece on some

Here's a good piece on some possibilities for ChromeOS: http://blogs.pcmag.com/miller/2009/07/googles_chrome_os_maybe_not_a.php

Books!
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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crcasey
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Joined: 11/17/2006
Some of the reasons you

Some of the reasons you think it will fail are the excact reasons it will over time succeed.

Yes you are right it is not. But Google has a much shorter cycle time than any MS product. So as the free time goes, so does the file compatibility. Given that people at google are given free time to make this all work, I would bet on them getting 100% sooner than later.

On the other side Microsoft people have to keep the same standard if thier software will be useful.

One has to hold still, and one is catching up quickly. Which one will win when one is free?

-Cecil

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Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Google overtaking MS
crcasey wrote:

Some of the reasons you think it will fail are the excact reasons it will over time succeed.

Yes, but how long will that take? Five years? Ten years? More? That's the key, the longer it will take a change like that to happen, the more likely there will be a variety of other forces at play to throw a monkey wrench in the whole thing and provide for a different outcome. That's also assuming that - to use the Google versus Microsoft example - that Google will continue to execute flawlessly and Microsoft will continue to not have a proper response. That's a lot of assumptions. Certainly possible, but too many variables to predict an outcome, particularly since I believe we're talking a very long term outcome versus anything even remotely short term.

Books!
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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