When Google announced that it's bringing an operating system to computers next year, it was a bombshell unlike anything that has hit the wire so far this year. For the first time, Google is taking on Microsoft in the place where it derives much of its income--and where it has historically dominated. Of course, that doesn't mean Google will definitely win out. The company will have some serious work to do if it wants to capture a significant portion of the operating system market.
In the beginning, Chrome OS will be lightweight. It will be designed specifically for netbooks. Google said it will come bundled on some netbooks when it's released next year. But anyone who believes Chrome OS will stay just on netbooks is kidding themselves. The Tiny PCs are being used as a test market. Will people like it? What needs to be tweaked? All those questions will be answered a year from now.
Google's strategy gives the company time to roll out an even more capable software package. Just because Microsoft is dominating the OS space, it doesn't mean that Google should rush a service to the market. Quite the contrary, it's following a strategy that could help it over the long-term: deploy a Web-based OS on less-capable computers first and then start offering more advanced versions, for free, to those who want to use it on their computers.
But what about the enterprise? Although much of the focus of Chrome OS has been on the consumer market where it will most likely spend much of its time in the beginning, the business world is trying to figure out where it stands in all that. Will Chrome OS forget about the enterprise and, like Apple, appeal mainly to consumers? Or will Google realize that the enterprise is where Microsoft solidifies its power and take on the software giant where losses would hurt it most?
Right now, there's no way to tell. Google hasn't even mentioned the enterprise.
But if Google is serious about becoming an OS leader, it better start focusing on it. Whether it wants to admit it or not, the business world is where employees get to know an operating system and then, if they like it, they use that operating system on their computers at home.
And although it might not be coming anytime soon, an enterprise-friendly Chrome OS might not be such a bad idea. At its core, Google's operating system has a host of features enterprise users just might like.