Although there haven’t been any announcements to corroborate the claims that Google will be unleashing a Chrome OS-based tablet in the near future, the possibility of such a device hitting store shelves is becoming increasingly likely.
Earlier this week, a mockup of how a Chrome-based tablet would work surfaced on the official Chromium blog. Although the company was quick to point out that the designs were merely a “concept UI,” it was impressive. The Chrome OS tablet would boast a virtual keyboard, like Apple’s iPad, as well as contextual control and multiple tabs for multitasking in a lightweight package that should satisfy those who want simple functionality, like surfing the Web, checking e-mails or editing Office documents.
Although proof-of-concept images and videos don’t portend success in the real world, Google’s Chrome OS could become a compelling alternative to Apple’s iPad. Not only is it ideally suited for a tablet, it’s backed by a company that has a proven track record of delivering services that people actually want to use.
Most importantly, it’s the first Web-based OS, which makes it a far more revolutionary product than Apple’s tablet. As successful as Apple’s iPad might be when it’s released later this year, a Chrome tablet might just be a major threat to Steve Jobs’ company. Let’s take a look at why:
1. It’s Google
If an unknown company were developing a Web-based operating system to run on a tablet computer and compete with Apple’s iPad, it might have a tough battle ahead of it. But Google is not an unknown company. The search giant knows what it takes to be successful in the tech industry. It also fully realizes what consumers are looking for in a touch device. Google is a company that should be feared.
One of the major problems with Apple’s iPad is its lack of multitasking. If a user wants to work in Pages and quickly switch over to Safari to read the news, she will need to first close Pages to do so. That’s a problem that Apple needs to address quickly. Assuming Chrome OS works as advertised, any Chrome OS-based machine will allow for multitasking. That’s a major development that can’t be overlooked when the iPad and a Chrome OS tablet are compared.
3. Web-Based Means Something
Although Apple touts its iPhone operating system as the top OS in the market for a tablet computer, a Web-based operating system wouldn’t be so bad either. Chrome OS affords several luxuries, including off-site storage, availability whenever (and wherever) a Web connection is available, and much more. We also can’t forget that as more software moves to the cloud, users will be looking to the Internet for a viable OS. Chrome OS can provide that. Apple’s iPad software cannot.
4. Chrome OS Is Built for Lightweight Design
Chrome OS is not meant to be a competitor to Windows 7 or Mac OS X. Instead, Google’s operating system is designed specifically for netbook users who require a lightweight operating system and basic functionality, like Web surfing and basic document editing. The operating system’s lightweight design also makes it an ideal choice for tablet users. Google won’t have to change much to get it ready for a vendor’s tablet.
Chrome Taps the Web’s Power
5. Google Knows How to Make Touch Work
As the company’s Android platform has shown, Google can be successful at delivering a touch experience to users. In fact, a recent update to the software on its Nexus One smartphone provides users with multitouch options. Google is arguably the only company that has come close to re-creating the iPhone’s outstanding multitouch experience. If it brings that technology to a Chrome OS tablet, Apple might be faced with a real contender.
6. Apple’s iPad Isn’t Groundbreaking
Although Steve Jobs wants the world to believe that the iPad is revolutionary on all fronts, it really isn’t. There are other tablets on the market that can boast several of the iPad’s features. We also can’t forget that the device lacks multitasking, it requires AT&T’s 3G to connect to the Web away from Wi-Fi, and it lacks Flash support. The iPad is hobbled by its omissions, which could pave the way for a Chrome OS tablet to steal market share away from Apple.
7. The Web Is the App Store
One of the iPad’s main advantages is Apple’s App Store. At last count, the company’s marketplace had over 140,000 applications available for download. It’s certainly a competitive advantage that won’t be easily matched. But Chrome OS might have the best shot at it. The operating system doesn’t necessarily require so many apps, since the Web is its app store. Users can surf to Pandora to listen to music and can go to Facebook to check in on friends. If they want sports updates, they can head over to ESPN. Apps wouldn’t be as important on a Chrome OS tablet as they are on the iPad.
8. The Built-In Software Is Just Fine
When Apple unveiled the iPad, the company also talked about a revamped iWork that would allow consumers to use the productivity suite on the tablet. The only problem is, iWork isn’t the most viable Office alternative. And thanks to the iPad’s functionality, it might suffer from some design issues. Google Docs is a different story. It’s widely recognized as the best Web-based Office alternative on the market. And based on my experience with both products, Google’s software is far better. That might not matter to entertainment seekers, but to enterprise users, Google Docs could make all the difference in their choice between an iPad and Chrome OS tablet.
9. It Could Hit the Right Price Point
Google has specifically designed Chrome OS to be lightweight and affordable. That could help Chrome OS tablets hit a price point that would make the iPad look expensive. Admittedly, $499 for an iPad is a great price. But let’s not forget that that version features no 3G and has the smallest available hard drive. The best value is arguably a few hundred dollars more expensive. Thanks to Google, Chrome OS could be offered at a much cheaper price.
10. Ubiquity Is Key
Chrome OS has one advantage that might prove to be Apple’s biggest obstacle: It can run on any vendor’s computer. Apple’s software will run only on the iPad, meaning consumers have just one option if they want to run Apple’s OS. But if consumers opt for Chrome OS, they could conceivably choose between several alternatives from vendors ranging from Dell to HP to Lenovo. That’s important. The more vendors that offer Chrome OS, the more likely the market will try it out. If users like what they see, they might just opt for a Chrome OS machine, rather than an iPad.