Google Flirting with Crowded PC Hardware Market

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-12-17 Print this article Print

5. Hardware design is a costly business

It's also important to note that hardware is an extremely costly business to get into. Not only is the startup cost of building the first machine high, but after that, Google will be forced to refresh the device as new components are made available. That leads to even more R&D costs that just aren't worth the effort. And considering that margins on netbooks are notoriously low, the net effect might not meet Google's standards.

6. Chrome OS is the real cash cow

If Google wants to make as much money as possible off Chrome OS, it needs to forget about hardware. Chrome OS is unique; it's the next frontier in software. Google has an opportunity to capitalize on that and make its own operating system the first wildly successful OS competitor to put Microsoft on notice in years. Chrome OS could be a cash cow for Google. That should be its focus, not hardware.

7. It could limit OS adoption

Microsoft has taught Google an important lesson: The more computers an operating system is on, the greater the chance that the OS will be successful. If Google offers up a netbook running Chrome OS, most folks will probably rush to the company's hardware. All the while, third-party hardware sales will be slumping. Google will then lose all vendor support. At that point, Chrome OS will become just another Mac OS X. That's not what Google wants.

8. It's about integration

The real value of Chrome OS is the opportunity to integrate it with other Google services. People using Chrome OS will be more likely to use only Google services, rather than switch to Bing or Yahoo. It's simple convenience. If Google Search, Gmail and Google Docs are readily available in Chrome OS, why switch to anything else?

9. There's no easy way out

Let's say Google's netbook does poorly. If it does, Google might have trouble handling that situation. The company might be able to simply get out of the hardware business entirely, but that's unlikely. By then, vendors would have lost trust in Google, so hardware running Chrome OS would dry up. In the meantime, Google pulling out of the hardware business could hint to consumers that the operating system isn't as great as Google wanted them to believe. Google shouldn't put itself in that position. It should just focus on software.

10. Hardware gets in the way of good plans

Any amount of time that Google dedicates to hardware design over software improvements will only hurt Chrome OS. Take the Apple iPhone, for example. Sure, it's a great device. But the first iteration of the device lacked features such as copy and paste, a camcorder and native third-party apps, to name a few. It was unfinished. Google can't afford for Chrome OS to be unfinished. It needs to focus all its attention on software and forget hardware.

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at

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