As 2009 comes to an end and the technology industry looks ahead to 2010, it’s Chrome OS that could arguably steal the show in the new year. It will be the first desktop operating system Google has ever released. It will also be released with one goal in mind: to beat Windows 7 wherever and whenever it can.
That’s a tall order, for sure. Microsoft reigns supreme in the operating system space. Windows 7, unlike its predecessor Windows Vista, has an opportunity to solidify Microsoft’s position with an experience that bests other operating systems on the market. So as Google prepares its Chrome OS for release, it can’t make any mistakes. The more mistakes the company makes, the more difficult it will be for Google to compete. Simply put, Microsoft has applied pressure that will dictate Google’s moves going forward.
However, Google has already made mistakes. The search giant is focused on the wrong things. And that could come back to haunt it. Let’s take a look at some of the areas where Google has gone wrong.
1. A Chrome OS netbook
Reports are swirling that Google is planning to release a Chrome OS-based netbook of its own. Those rumors are becoming increasingly more detailed, leading many to believe that the search giant is, in fact, releasing a PC of its own. It better not. If Google releases a Chrome OS netbook, it could spell serious trouble for its platform. Third-party vendors would shy away from offering Chrome OS computers, since the software owner is doing the same. Even if Google isn’t, all these rumors can’t help its cause with vendors. Stay away from netbooks, Google. And make sure everyone knows about your plans to stick with software.
2. The focus on netbooks
An online operating system can’t necessarily be expected to face off with Windows out of the box, but why Google has limited the OS to netbooks is a mystery at this point. Google didn’t need to rush to offer Chrome OS. Microsoft and Apple are content with the desktop. The company could have improved the offering so it would work well with netbooks and desktops. It might take longer, but it would also be of far more value to the consumer. By offering Chrome OS on netbooks alone, Google runs the risk of being the company that offers an operating system for underpowered devices. Does it really want that?
3. How do third parties factor in?
Third-party software is why Microsoft is so successful today. The company has welcomed third-party software for decades. That policy has solidified its position in the enterprise. It also added significant value to its operating system on the consumer side. For now, how Google plans to bring third-party software to its platform is largely a mystery. Since the operating system is Web-based, we might presume that applications that work within the OS will need to be available as online services. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but what about all those useful applications already available on the desktop? By cutting out such a huge portion of the software market, Google might find itself in worse trouble than it expects.
4. Locking users into Chrome
Chrome OS will only work with Google’s Chrome browser. At first glance, that might make some sense. Why would Google want to bring its own software to any other browser? But when one considers that Chrome is being used by only a small portion of the browser market, it becomes blatantly clear that Google is, once again, cutting out a huge portion of its market. Users don’t like being locked down to certain software packages-just ask Microsoft.
What Chrome Needs to Make a Dent in Windows
5. User understanding
What is Chrome OS all about? Why should a consumer use it? Will it work with third-party peripherals? What happens when users can’t connect to the Web? These are just a small sampling of the many questions users have about Chrome OS. And until they get their hands on the operating system, it’s likely that Google will be unable to answer those questions. The search giant needs to do a better job of helping users understand what Chrome OS is all about. If it doesn’t, the software will be just another also-ran in the space.
6. It’s about hype
If Apple has taught Google anything, it’s that hype is a best friend when attempting to sell products to consumers. Google had that hype when Chrome OS was first announced. Since then, the mainstream has largely forgotten about Chrome OS, while tech pundits are wondering why Google hasn’t done more to talk about it. If Google wants to put a dent in Microsoft’s market share, it needs the support only hype can provide.
7. What about the enterprise?
Chrome OS is not designed for the enterprise. In fact, some analysts have said Chrome OS probably won’t be ready for the corporate world for about 10 years. That’s a problem. Microsoft’s dominance in the operating system market is partly due to its focus on businesses. Google can’t afford to ignore the enterprise for long.
8. A long delay
When Google first announced Chrome OS, some folks were excited about the possibilities it might offer. But when Google said it wouldn’t launch the operating system for another year, others were perplexed about why the company would announce the software so far in advance of its release. As a result, users will likely move on to other things. Chrome OS will be just a memory. Big mistake, Google.
9. Vendor support
So far, Google has done little to reassure consumers that Chrome OS devices will be available when the software launches. A few companies have jumped on Google’s bandwagon, but many others are waiting to see if there’s a market for an online operating system. That’s a problem. Ubiquity is everything in the PC business. The more places an operating system is available, the more likely it is to sell well. Google needs to find a way to reassure vendors and sign more companies up. It’s imperative at this stage in the operating system’s development.
Security is the thorn in every operating system maker’s side. It’s now a key concern of Google’s. But by detailing few ways in which it expects to keep users safe, Google leaves some wondering if Chrome OS will really hold up against attacks from malicious hackers. In the future, Google needs to focus much of its efforts on reassuring both consumers and the security community that it knows what it’s doing with operating system security. If it doesn’t, it could hurt Chrome’s market acceptance.