Google’s Chrome OS platform could potentially be a major headline-stealer in 2011. Not only does it come from one of the most important (and prominent) tech companies in the industry, but it delivers a unique operating system experience that consumers and even some enterprise customers will be keen on getting to know more about.
But as Google continues to improve its Web-based platform and prepares it for wide release in consumer markets, the question remains of whether or not it will be a success. On one hand, folks might realize that the operating system features some really neat ideas that consumers would like. But on the other hand, they might quickly realize that it’s facing so many external pressures along with some serious limitations of its own that could significantly affect its ability to compete in the OS market.
1. It comes down to capability
When it’s all said and done, customers will judge Google’s Chrome OS platform by what they can do with it. And at first glance, they can do quite a bit, including check e-mail, surf the Web, edit Office documents, and perform many of the basic tasks they enjoy right now on desktop-based alternatives. But further inspection reveals that they won’t be able to do as much as they can on, say, Windows or Mac OS X. Those operating systems are far more powerful and deliver some key features, like HD video editing and encoding, that just won’t be so easily do-able on Chrome OS.
2. Beating Windows is a tall order
Microsoft’s Windows operating system has a dominant share over the operating system market around the world. The chances of that changing anytime soon due to Chrome OS seem slim, to say the least. Microsoft is still the chosen operating system for both consumers and enterprise customers alike. Until Google can convince those key parties to switch, it could have a hard time making Chrome OS a success.
3. The enterprise consideration
Speaking of the enterprise, it seems like one key area where Google’s operating system will fall short. The enterprise requires several features in an operating system, including power, software compatibility, security, and much more. And at least in some of those cases, Google’s Chrome OS falls short. That’s a problem. The enterprise has proven central to the success or failure of several software and hardware platforms throughout the years. That’s not going to change. If Google can’t attract the corporate world at all, it could have some trouble making Chrome OS a long-term success.
4. The important question: Is it necessary?
When consumers finally decide if they want a product or not, they need to figure out if it’s necessary. That could be one of the major issues standing in the way of Chrome OS becoming successful. Consumers that are still trying to get their heads above water as the Great Recession hammers the world aren’t necessarily so keen on trying out a new operating system that won’t work as well at launch as the one they already have. On the smartphone side, they can live with it. But on the PC side, Chrome OS is likely an unacceptable option for those searching for a single efficient device to spend their hard-earned cash compared to an operating system they know and (mostly) trust.
Chrome OS Will Fight an Uphill Battle
5. Vendor support is critical
Chrome OS could be derailed quite quickly without the proper support from vendors. Acer, Samsung, and several other companies currently plan on supporting the operating system, but it’s a long-term game. If they don’t see the OS selling as well as they would like, they will jump ship. Google must keep that in mind. The sooner it can attract consumer attention to the software platform, the sooner it can limit its chances of seeing Chrome OS become a failure.
6. Are consumers ready?
As mentioned, consumers need to decide if using Chrome OS is really necessary. But Google must also consider if the consumer market is ready for its platform. The tech lovers almost certainly are. But what about the mainstream consumer that doesn’t follow the tech space so closely? If they’re comfortable using Windows or Mac OS X, what would make them want to switch to Chrome OS, a new way of interacting with a computer? It’s a question that Google must answer before it sees its Web-based operating system fail.
7. Software considerations
When Chrome OS launches, Google is assured that users will be able to access many of the programs they desire from the company’s online Chrome app store. However, the operating system won’t support Windows applications designed for the desktop, which means enterprise customers will be out. Plus, it might be a hard sell to get consumers to buy apps that won’t be as powerful as the desktop alternatives they already paid for. Simply put, when it comes to software compatibility, Chrome OS will fall short.
8. Hardware concerns
If there is trouble on the software side with Chrome OS, the issue must also span the hardware market. Windows and Mac OS X users want to be able to connect their USB devices, FireWire-connected products, and other hardware to Chrome OS devices and get them to work. The only problem is, they will only work if hardware vendors get down to making them compatible with Google’s software. That could be a tall order for quite some time. It will likely cause some serious concern among consumers.
9. Android, the competitor
Chrome OS is designed to be a lightweight operating system at launch, potentially making it effective for customers using netbooks or even tablets. That’s fine. But the only issue for Google is that its other operating system, Android, is also capable of running quite well on those devices, which means the search giant could effectively be competing against itself. For its part, Google has said that it doesn’t view its two platforms as competitors. But will consumers? Time will tell.
10. Data plan considerations
As a Web-based operating system, Chrome OS requires an always-connected experience for users. When using the computer at home, that probably won’t be such an issue for consumers with Wi-Fi. But when they venture out of the house, away from Wi-Fi, they will be forced to connect to the Web via 3G, which of course, requires data plan charges. Now, more consumers than ever are paying for data plans nowadays, but that doesn’t make the additional cost any more acceptable to the average customer. Simply put, Chrome OS requires a monthly fee to work properly that many customers might take issue with.