Chrome OS-based devices are scheduled to land this fall. But when they are released, they will find a drastically different marketplace from the space that they would have entered into when they were first announced.
When Google first outlined its plans for Chrome OS, the company believed that the software would be ideal for netbooks. After all, at the time, netbooks were cutting into notebook sales, and there was a growing feeling that the lightweight notebooks would be successful for the foreseeable future.
Then Apple came up with the iPad, several other companies started announcing tablets, and all that changed. Today, netbooks aren’t selling nearly as well as they once did, and speculation abounds over how much longer they have before they’re finally discontinued.
All the while, Google is left to wonder what it will do with Chrome OS. The Web-based operating system will certainly be part of Google’s strategy over the long term, but it wanted to get started in netbooks, and eventually make its way to desktops and notebooks. Meanwhile, Apple’s iPad is selling extremely well. And it’s making some wonder if they really need Chrome OS at all.
The future is in doubt for Chrome OS. With netbooks being marginalized, it would seem that the simple, lightweight operating system must now rely on tablets to help it stay relevant in a market that changed so quickly. Here’s why:
1. Netbooks aren’t working
Netbooks just aren’t as successful or as popular as they were prior to the announcement of the iPad. A year ago, all the talk in the tech industry was about netbooks. The idea that a simple, small computer would be able to replace a lightweight notebook was fascinating to consumers. They were buying those products in droves. But with the release of the iPad, consumer desired shifted. They viewed the netbook as the middle-of-the-road device that didn’t adequately bridge the gap between the iPhone and the iPad. And they stopped buying it. Meanwhile, Google has stuck with netbooks. That can only mean that tablets are the company’s only hope for Chrome OS.
2. Chrome OS is perfect for tablets
Although Chrome OS was originally designed for netbooks, it seems ideally suited for a tablet. Consumers would be able to access the content they really care about on the Web without being required to download software. In fact, Chrome OS seems like an ideal alternative to iPhone OS on the iPad. Google should embrace that. It needs to realize that Chrome OS probably wouldn’t have done all that well in the netbook market anyway, since Windows is such a dominant presence. But in the tablet space, it compares quite well. That’s a good thing.
3. It can compete with iPhone OS
Chrome OS can likely do well against iPhone OS. Apple’s software is far more similar to Chrome OS than anything that the Web-based operating system would have competed against in the netbook space. That would help Google appeal to consumers. After all, if consumers are looking for a specialty product that lives in the cloud, but can match iPhone OS, they can opt for Chrome OS. Apple’s operating system is the benchmark by which all tablet operating systems are judged. And Chrome OS compares quite well.
4. It’s not desktop ready
Google’s Chrome OS just isn’t ready for the desktop. That alone puts all the pressure on Google to compete effectively in the tablet market. If Chrome OS were able to run well on a desktop or a full-featured notebook, the pressure on Google would be off. After all, the company could stay true to its desire of wanting to deliver a Web-based alternative to Windows. But the operating system just isn’t ready for more capable computers yet. That means Google needs to make it clear to consumers, through tablets, that when Chrome OS is desktop-ready, it will be the operating system they want. Netbooks just won’t cut it.
10 Reasons Why Google Chrome Might Fail Without Tablet Success
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5. Simplicity is nice–for tablets
Chrome OS is simple. But that’s a good thing. A key component in Google’s strategy must be marketing. It needs to make the case to consumers that its operating system is worth using. It can do that by calling upon the simplicity of Chrome OS in all of its marketing efforts. In the netbook space, such a marketing scheme wouldn’t work so well, since Windows is so capable. But iPhone OS is relatively simple too. And it’s what consumers expect in the tablet space. Chrome OS’ simplicity could be the “hook” it needs to stay relevant in the market.
6. Money plays a part
Consumers only have a finite amount of cash to spend on any one gadget. And although the iPad is more expensive than most of the netbooks on the market, they don’t seem to care. They want the product that, in their mind, would offer the best bang for the buck. That should tell Google all that it needs to know about the netbook market. Try as it might to revive that space, consumers are now looking for something different. And they’re only willing to spend their money on one product. In the netbook space, Chrome OS might not have a chance at getting that cash. In the tablet market, it just might. Google needs to put itself in the right position.
7. The Web isn’t enough
Yes, it would be nice to be able to use an operating system that provides Web access, but it’s not enough to revive the netbook market. Consumers are looking for more than a small, lightweight notebook that costs a few hundred bucks. They want to be able to use their fingers to control what’s happening on a device. The Internet is just one small component in what consumers would like to see in a Chrome OS device. Google needs to come to grips with the fact that if its Web-based operating system is to get off the ground, it needs to work with vendors and deliver tablet functionality.
8. Android and Chrome can work together
There might be an opportunity for Google to offer both of its operating systems to tablet makers. The reason is simple: Android OS is a mobile operating system. And although it can be adapted to work with tablets, it was first designed with smartphones in mind. Chrome OS wasn’t. That operating system is designed for full-fledged computers. It can offer something different and unique that Android can’t. So while Chrome OS could eventually cannibalize Android sales, it’s important to realize that they both could work in the tablet market. The same can’t be said in the netbook space.
9. Consumers see it as an unknown
One of the biggest issues facing Chrome OS in the netbook market is that it’s relatively unknown. That only hurts its chances of being a success in that space. But in the tablet market, the unknown is all that consumers have. Yes, the iPad has been on store shelves for about two months now, so consumers know about it, but every other product will be a mystery. That could play into Google’s hands and give its operating system a better shot at competing. The tablet market is a bit more forgiving than the netbook space. Google should welcome that.
10. What else is there?
When it comes to Chrome OS, Google is all out of options. The netbook market is dying, the operating system isn’t ready for desktops and notebooks, and the future is a big question mark for Web-based operating systems. If Google doesn’t try its luck in the tablet space and do what it can to be successful, Chrome OS will almost undoubtedly fail. And although Google will still try its luck on desktops and notebooks eventually, getting off on the wrong foot is never a good thing for any software package. Google needs to focus its time on tablets. If it doesn’t, Chrome OS might be destined to fail before it’s even released.