As the world prepares for the release of Google's Chrome OS, a Web-based operating system that Google announced earlier in 2009 and that is expected to be previewed Nov. 19, it's important for everyone to consider the implications of the release. For the first time in quite a while, a major company is jumping into the operating system space to compete with Microsoft and Apple. It will be an important launch that could have a real and meaningful impact on the market.
Apple won't need to worry about the release of Chrome OS nearly as much as Microsoft will. Apple is a hardware company. Mac OS X holds a relatively small percentage of market share in the software space and it isn't competing against Windows-based netbooks. But Microsoft does need to worry about Google and its Chrome operating system. Microsoft is competing heavily in the netbook market, on which Chrome OS has its sights firmly set. Moreover, it has online services of its own, in Azure and Office Online, that underscore its desire to move to the Web. Simply put, there is a lot at stake for Microsoft when Chrome OS is released. And it needs to act quickly to stymie Chrome OS' growth.
Until then, Microsoft should fear Chrome OS. Here's why:
1. Google keeps growing
Like it or not, Google is growing at a rapid rate. The company still dominates search. Its online tools, like Google Docs, are quickly becoming viable alternatives to Microsoft's software. Even its Android mobile platform is doing a fine job of offering something a little different, yet appealing. With the help of Chrome OS, Google is adding another weapon to its arsenal. And for Microsoft, that could be scary.
2. Google understands software
Although Google has focused on the online world, the company has proven time and again that it understands what consumers really want from software. A quick evaluation of Google Docs, its Chrome browser and Android prove that point quite well. Realizing that, there's no reason to suggest that Chrome OS won't provide a viable experience. After all, if Google has already done well developing software, why should anyone doubt its ability to create a viable operating system?
3. An online ruler
At the same time, Microsoft should be extremely fearful of Google's position online. By being the first major company to develop a viable online operating system for netbooks, Google is once again solidifying its position on the Web. In the meantime, Microsoft, which just released Windows 7 to much fanfare, is focusing its efforts on desktop software. The longer Google commands the Web, the harder it will be for Microsoft to break through its barriers.
4. Windows isn't stellar
Windows is still widely considered a less-than-stellar operating system. Sure, Windows 7 is better than Windows Vista, but the OS still suffers from security problems, quirks and a level of usability that some users don't find appealing enough. Now more than ever, Google has a real shot at changing the operating system landscape. And it's partly Microsoft's fault.