News Analysis: Google is allegedly forbidding some of its more than 20,000 employees to use computers running Microsoft Windows due to concerns about the operating system's security. These concerns would be hard to refute because Windows machines have a track record of hosting flaws and vulnerabilities and have proven a fertile breeding ground for viruses. Another possibility is that Google is greasing the wheels for its forthcoming Chrome Operating System.
Google is allegedly forbidding some of its more than 20,000 employees to use computers running Microsoft Windows
due to concerns
about the operating system's security.
The Financial Times cited Google employees
who said Google began seriously
pushing its workers to Apple Macs or machines running Linux in January after
the Chinese cyber-attack on some Gmail accounts.
A Google spokesperson told eWEEK June 1 that the company does not comment
about specific operational matters, but said, "We're always working to
improve the efficiency of our business."
Google employees may believe or were instructed to claim that security
issues are the reason behind this move. This is credible because Windows
machines have a track record of playing host to flaws and vulnerabilities and
have proven a fertile breeding ground for viruses.
Or, rather, Windows has been through several versions and upgrades, so
hackers have picked apart Windows the most, given the operating system's ubiquity.
Windows sits on about 91 percent of the world's computers, according to Net
But another possibility is that Google is greasing the wheels for its
forthcoming Chrome Operating System,
the lightweight OS designed
specifically to run Web applications through Google's Chrome browser on
netbooks and possibly tablet computers.
Google is planning to launch a Chrome Web Store
to sell Web applications for
Chrome browser and Chrome OS machines.
Industry analyst Rob Enderle said the coming of Chrome OS is likely the
primary driver for Google's phasing out of Windows, comparing it to the way Sun
Microsystems wanted its employees on Sun Ray 1 and Apple wants employees on the
"I would anticipate Google eliminating Mac next and arguing something
like 'freedom' as the reason as they prepare to convert over to the Chrome
OS," Enderle said.
eWEEK's own experience with Google employees is that a lot of them use Mac
computers, accessing Windows content with Parallels virtualization software.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin lamented
his company's delay in putting out a
version of the Chrome browser for the Mac.
IDC analyst Al Hilwa said the growing
competition between Google and Microsoft is likely behind the move away from
Windows. Indeed, Google has been busy trying to lure users from Microsoft Office
to Google Apps.
"I have to wonder how much of this is due to competitive drivers versus
genuine desire to secure Google. After all, Google has operating systems,
browsers, tools and productivity software that is head-to-head competitive with
Microsoft and so this may make sense for them. For example, unless it is for
software-testing purposes, you are not likely going to find too many Macs
"On the other hand, there is such a thing as security through
obscurity, and it can be quite effective in certain settings. If I wanted to
have the least attractive stack for virus and malware attacks, I would use the
most obscure stack I can find, potentially including custom-developed
Considering that it's not yet offered commercially on computers, Chrome OS
is as obscure as it gets, lending credence to Hilwa's argument.
However, Hilwa added, this strategy does not always work with precision-targeted
attacks, as the attackers would invest what it takes to target an environment.
"More often, software that is less popularly deployed may in some cases
harbor basic vulnerabilities that would have been discovered with broader field
testing and deployment. It is a judgment call," he said.
In any event, it's a safe bet that many Googlers are already using Chrome OS
and we just don't know it yet. Exactly how many Chrome OS users there are remains
a mystery known only to Google.