The OS Battle Moves into the Cloud

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-11-18 Print this article Print

5. Microsoft needs more online assets

Although Microsoft has made its intention of bringing software to the Web known with Office and Windows Azure, a Chrome OS competitor, the company has so far done little to compete with Google online. Bing is undoubtedly a fine first step, but the software giant needs to do more if it wants to cut off Chrome's growth. That means Microsoft will need to quickly shift its focus online.

6. Netbooks are a key battleground

Chrome OS is designed specifically for netbooks. It's a smart move. Google realizes that Chrome OS won't provide much value to those using desktops or notebooks. It also understands that its operating system can't beat Windows in terms of power, application availability or enterprise viability. But when it comes to netbooks, Chrome OS is a viable solution. It does have the features users would want. And it will be able to compete against Microsoft's Windows 7 Starter Edition.

7. Netbooks are just the start

All that doesn't mean that Google will stick with netbooks interminably. We can probably expect the company to bring Chrome OS to desktops and notebooks over the next few years. That could cause some trouble for Microsoft. It has spent considerable cash and time trying to own the netbook market, but the desktop space is where it has easily reigned supreme for years. If Google delivers a viable alternative, complete with features that rival Windows, Microsoft will be forced to face off against a company with just as much power, cash and drive as itself. That's a battle that Microsoft won't want to wage.

8. What about the vendors?

Vendors can't be forgotten as we determine the impact Chrome OS could have on the software space. For years, companies like Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Acer have been searching for alternatives to Windows. For its part, Dell offers Ubuntu as a replacement for Windows. That decision was born out of the company's (and consumer) distaste for Vista. At the same time, vendors have been at the mercy of Windows for too long. They're chomping at the bit to have at least one company that can attract consumer attention and take Windows on. Google might just be that company.

9. The future is in the cloud

One of Microsoft's biggest fears should be losing the battle for the cloud before it even properly starts. Without a swift and forceful response to Chrome OS, it's doubtful that Microsoft can regain lost online OS market share from Google. Unfortunately for Microsoft, the future is decidedly in the cloud. More and more companies and consumers are moving there. And all the while, it's Google that's waiting for them. Chrome OS is just Step 1. If Microsoft wants to capture the cloud, it needs to move quickly.

10. Bing, ads and all the rest

Online, Microsoft just doesn't have it. The company is admittedly making strides in the search engine space, but Bing is still woefully behind the competition. The same can be said for Microsoft's advertising platform (another key online battleground), e-mail and Webmaster tools. The company might be making progress, but it's far behind. And the longer it takes for Microsoft to respond to Chrome OS, the greater the chance that it will allow Google to dominate the online OS market just as it dominates search.

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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