This was the day many people had been waiting and hoping years for… Google takes up the Open Source / Linux code base and enters into full competition with Microsoft in the operating system market. Now it is official, as Google announced on their blog yesterday. The “Chrome OS” will be, like Android, based on the Linux kernel and essentially a Google-sponsored re-write of the user interface over that to build a next-generation, cloud OS geared to run web apps. The most important point here is “browser” based vs. “desktop” based, because with that comes all of the potentialities of cloud applications, remote hosted drives, distributed computing, SaaS, etc. Since the Chrome OS is being specifically targeted at netbooks, many are also pointing to Adobe Air applications vs. traditional desktop apps as future standards. The last point though highlights the main asterisk to the announcement: the Chrome OS will be optimized for netbooks first, rather than desktop PCs, which most users and virtually all professionals & business users rely on.
Consider then a very methodical development cycle where Google moves from search, search advertising, apps & code / cloud offerings to launching 1) a mobile phone OS based on open source Linux code base, “Android” 2) a netbook OS based on Linux & browser, “Chrome OS”, to…. 3) full desktop OS (based on Linux) that is integrated with Google products and a direct competitor to Apple / OSX & Microsoft / Windows, (unfinished, but reportedly also pending as a next phase extension of the Chrome OS). The long range significance is that the leading IT company in the world is launching, progressively the open source movement into mainstream computing, and at every level providing free, open source software alternatives for both business and personal users to the proprietary offerings by Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, & other old school software companies. Again, this is great news for independent developers of web based applications, as it levels the playing field and allows for direct entry into the marketplace on the open source foundation following Google.
It can be argued that this is no big deal, Linux has been around for years, and still has only 1% desktop market share. But Google has 80% market share in search. If, by the law of averages, they can pull a 40% market share away from Microsoft & Apple in the next 10 years they can totally transform the popular foundation of computing a second time. Given the momentum behind Open Source at this time, changing consumer habits, and worldwide consumer trust in Google, I think there is a strong possibility in this.
The following posts include the initial announcement from the Google blog and the media reaction to the announcement:
7/07/2009 09:37:00 PM
“It’s been an exciting nine months since we launched the Google Chrome browser. Already, over 30 million people use it regularly. We designed Google Chrome for people who live on the web — searching for information, checking email, catching up on the news, shopping or just staying in touch with friends. However, the operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web. So today, we’re announcing a new project that’s a natural extension of Google Chrome — the Google Chrome Operating System. It’s our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be.”
“Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010. Because we’re already talking to partners about the project, and we’ll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve.”
“Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We’re designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.”
“When Google (GOOG) launched Android, the open-source operating system designed to power mobile Internet devices, industry analysts were surprised to discover that PC manufacturers had begun to use it to power netbooks, the cheap, low-power laptops that have become among the biggest sellers in a dismal market. Now, Google has thrown itself fully into the netbook market with the release of Chrome OS, a new operating system based on its Web browser and designed to directly challenge Microsoft (MSFT) for the future of the personal computer. The search giant had originally planned to announce the release today but bumped it up to yesterday after the New York Times got wind of it.”
“In the end, Google’s strike may not cut deep into enemy territory. Chrome, the web browser, is still stuck at a tiny market share of 1.2%. Android is available on just two or three phones, not enough to really make an impact. Google Apps – productivity software to handle spreadsheets and word documents – has just come out of its “beta” test phase, but look around you and you will find most people still using Microsoft Office. The one field where Chrome OS may make a difference is the market for the open source Linux operating system. Chrome OS will use bits of the Linux kernel, the link between the computer hardware and the Chrome browser running on it. Google is bound to make Chrome OS much more user-friendly than most “distros” or versions of Linux available right now. Instead of slaying Microsoft, Chrome OS might corner the segment of the consumer space that might have been Linux’s. No doubt, Google’s charge with Chrome OS will needle Microsoft. But we won’t know for years whether it will deliver a mere pinprick, or is the fine point of the dagger at the heart of Microsoft.”
“Fast forward to today. The Chrome browser now has 30 million active users, says Google, and tracking services say it has 6% or so market share. Not bad for a browser that’s less than a year old. And now, WOW. Google just bolted a big ol’ bag of drivers (also known as the Linux kernel) to Chrome and are calling it the Google Chrome Operating System. It’s going to be hard for people to continue to deny its operating systemness now. The new OS will focus entirely on the web: ‘The software architecture is simple — Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel. For application developers, the web is the platform.’ Now, finally, even the tech purists can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Windows is hardware management plus an application platform, and we call that an OS. Chrome OS is hardware management plus an application platform (the browser), and we call that an OS, too.”
“Google really can challenge Microsoft, because the proliferation of Web-based applications makes the operating system much less important,” said Zeus Kerravala, analyst at Yankee Group. “As we pave the way towards real Web 2.0, there will be less of a real tie-in to Windows.”
“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.”
“Called the Google Chrome Operating System, the new software will be in netbooks for consumers in the second half of 2010, Google said in a blog post, adding that it was working with multiple manufacturers.”
“The effort marks the latest attack by Google on Microsoft, which dominates the market for operating system software that powers computer applications. The Mountain View, Calif., company, which makes 97% of its revenue from online advertising, has been trying to compete with Microsoft and other software makers by offering more software that runs in a Web browser and isn’t downloaded directly to computers. Now it appears to be broadening its approach, in a move that could give it greater distribution of its own online software services, including word-processing and email software.”
“But whether it can chip away at Microsoft’s dominance in the market remains unclear. In the months since its launch, Chrome has done little to challenge Microsoft’s lead in the browser software. And some hardware companies have been slow to adopt Google software — like its Android operating system, which is targeted at running applications on mobile phones — arguing it isn’t robust enough to handle many tasks.”
“The announcement contained a thesis statement that is a bit more significant than it might appear at first: ‘It’s our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be.’ That statement has both strategic and practical implications, which we’ll consider in turn.”
“From a strategic perspective, ‘what operating systems should be’ clearly involves a heavy dose of Google-driven Web apps, from e-mail to spreadsheets. The entire OS will be focused on getting users into a Web browser as quickly as possible; any other applications will be secondary and probably not provided by Google. Instead, once the browser launches, users can do their computing via online applications, saving their data in the cloud (think of all those “gDrive” rumors from the last few years)…”
“From a technological perspective, there appear to be some interesting aspects to rethinking the operating system. For one, by having an extremely narrow focus—bringing up a networking stack and browser as quickly as possible—Chrome OS has the ability to cut down on the hassles related to restarting and hibernating computers. And, aside from the browser, all of the key applications will reside online, security and other software updates won’t happen on the computer itself, which should also improve the user experience.”
“But let’s be clear on what this really is. This is Google dropping the mother of bombs on its chief rival, Microsoft. It even says as much in the first paragraph of its post, ‘However, the operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web.’ Yeah, who do you think they mean by that?”
“And it’s a genius play. So many people are buying netbooks right now, but are running WIndows XP on them. Windows XP is 8 years old. It was built to run on Pentium IIIs and Pentium 4s. Google Chrome OS is built to run on both x86 architecture chips and ARM chips, like the ones increasingly found in netbooks. It is also working with multiple OEMs to get the new OS up and running next year.”
“Obviously, this Chrome OS will be lightweight and fast just like the browser itself. But also just like the browser, it will be open-sourced. Think Microsoft will be open-sourcing Windows anytime soon?”
“I also suspect that some at Google were not entirely happy with the the direction that its Android mobile OS project is taking. Numerous netbook makers have made plans to install Android on small laptops. But Android was designed for handsets and a move to bigger devices is problematic. At a minimum, porting Android to larger screens would require major modifications in the user interface and possible some deeper components, such as the file system. This would lead to what computer scientists call ‘forking,’ the splitting of an operating system into branches that have serious incompatibilities between them. The push for Android on netbooks was being driven by manufacturers’ dissatisfaction with both Microsoft and current Linux distributions. In some cases, the computer makers wanted to build netbooks based on the ARM processor, such as Qualcomm’s Snapdragon platform, rather than an Intel or AMD x86 processor, and Android is designed for ARM. Done right, Chrome would satisfy those desires while helping Google protect the integrity of Android.”
TechMeme – List of Blogs Discussing Google Chrome OS:
“Discussion: Google Watch, MediaPost, Mark Evans, Fast Company, Between the Lines, TheNextWeb.com, ZDNET.com.au, Computerworld Blogs, TechCrunch, MediaMemo, Wall Street Journal, Open Gardens, Silicon Alley Insider, Mashable!, Google Operating System, CNET News, Computerworld, Bloomberg, Hardware 2.0, PC World, Network World, p2pnet, VentureBeat, Financial Times, blogs.chron.com, OStatic blogs, Tech Beat, pasmith’s blog, Ajaxian, Gadget Lab, Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Land, 9 to 5 Mac, Lifehacker, ClickZ, Android Central, Electricpig, Search Engine Journal, GottaBeMobile.com, Liliputing, SEO and Tech Daily, the Econsultancy blog, Gadgetell, jkOnTheRun, Guardian, Search Engine Roundtable, MacRumors, Music Ally, eWeek, TechFlash, CloudAve, Churbuck.com, PSFK, Neowin.net, Irregular Enterprise, AnandTech, Mobile Opportunity, DailyTech, Softpedia News, All things Indian Startups …, The Mobile Gadgeteer, AppScout, DailyFinance, Netbook Choice, T3.com News, Electronic Pulp, Gizmodo, Deep Jive Interests, Text Technologies, TECH.BLORGE.com, ReadWriteWeb, I4U News, Techgeist, SlashGear, istartedsomething, Blogation, Epicenter, HackingCough, louisgray.com, ithinkdifferent, paidContent, OhGizmo!, bit-tech.net, InformationWeek, Tim Anderson’s ITWriting, Microsoft News Tracker, Zoho Blogs, CellPassion, Intuitive.com, TeleRead, Tech Trader Daily, MobileContentToday, Download Squad, Engadget, TUAW and Raph’s Website”
OSnews blogs that the website marketwatch.com, which tracks software usage statistics, has officially reported that Linux has passed the 1% market share position for desktop operating systems. According to the site, Windows has dropped over the last year while Apple’s OS X has gained. The site also tracks usage of iPhone and iPod for client access to the internet. For example, iPhone is listed at .55% of all traffic vs. .07% currently for Android. Windows accounts for 88% of all users, Mac just under 10%, Linux 1%, and all other clients from Sun to video games and mobile phones amount to around 1% together. Interestingly, the W3 counter / Global stats has Linux usage over the same period (April 2009) at 2.16%: http://www.w3counter.com/globalstats.php
“Linux usage share on client devices has surpassed 1% for the first time in our tracking. Linux has been successful primarily as a server operating system, but client usage share has not kept pace with server share Linux has reached this important milestone on the client as Linux-based systems have become more functional, easier to use, and pre-installed on computers from vendors like Dell.”
That pre-installation is important in the spread of desktop Linux is supported by numerous reports as well as common sense. Yet, the bottom line is going to be user experience, stability, and available software vs. dedication to the open source philosophy. For most, buying a machine with the OS set up and running is standard. The increase in popularity of netbooks and the use of Linux as a pre-installed OS on those machines may be leading the trend combined with increased uptake in the education & development communities.