Google spent some time on Dec. 7 talking about Chrome OS, the company's Web-based operating system that's designed to provide users with a fully online experience from their computer. Although there are still several question marks about the platform and the products it will run on, the details that Google provided help to outline how the company views the future lives of consumers.
In the minds of Google executives, the future will be one where consumers (and potentially enterprise customers) spend their entire computing lives on the Internet. They will work on the Web, they will save data to the Web, and they will communicate on the Web. The idea of offline computing will be a thing of the past.
Of course, whether or not that will happen is up for debate. Google has a long way to go to drastically change how people use computers. But based on what is known about Chrome OS so far and considering Google's plans for the future, it might not be long before the company's Web-based operating system becomes a real and serious threat to Microsoft and its Windows platform.
Chrome OS isn't a threat now. But give it some time and it just might become one.
1. It's a long-term game
As mentioned, Chrome OS isn't an immediate threat to Microsoft's bottom line. It will need to be updated, improved and cultivated for years before it can deliver the kind of experience that Windows offers. But that doesn't mean that it will never happen. Google fully understands that the OS market isn't going anywhere for now. If it can create a better proposition for users over the long term than Microsoft can with Windows, the software giant will be in trouble.
2. Microsoft doesn't have a competitor
Microsoft is highly regarded for what it has accomplished in the desktop software space for good reason. The company has brought personal computing to millions around the globe, and continues to profit heavily off of its many software platforms. But that doesn't mean that it will enjoy similar success on the Web. In fact, Microsoft doesn't seem poised to launch a proper competitor to Chrome OS anytime soon. But until that happens, the company could find itself locked out of the Web-based OS market.
3. It's Google
If it were any other company developing a Web-based operating system to compete with Windows, most would agree that Microsoft would do just fine competing against it. But Google created Chrome OS. As the search giant has shown time and again in the past, it knows how to beat Microsoft at its own game. Realizing that, Microsoft should be concerned. It's entirely possible that, over time, Google's platform will achieve a level of success that Windows won't be able to overcome.
4. The Halo Effect concern
For Microsoft, concern over Chrome OS must go beyond that fact that it is an operating system competitor. If Google can attract millions of users around the globe to its Web-based operating system, it will also be able to lock them into its search. Moreover, it limits the necessity of Internet Explorer, creating an equally troubling issue for Microsoft. Simply put, if Chrome OS works out, multiple aspects of Microsoft's business could be in trouble.