Google's Chrome Operating System may not be available to end-users until late 2010, but Microsoft has a response to its rival's release of the OS to open source for developers on Nov. 20.
The Chrome OS is browser-based, and will run on netbooks as a Web-centric alternative to traditional desktop-based operating systems built by companies such as Microsoft and Apple. Users' applications and data will be stored in the cloud and accessible through Google Chrome Web browser, which will run in conjunction with Chrome OS.
Google already has another operating system, Android, that primarily operates on smartphones such as the Motorola Droid and the HTC Droid Eris.
"From what was shared, [Google Chrome] appears to be in the early stages of development," a Microsoft spokesperson told eWEEK after the Google presentation. "From our perspective, however, our customers are already voicing their approval of the way Windows 7 just works-across the Web and on the desktop, and on all sizes and types of PCs."
The spokesperson also echoed a line originally delivered by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer during Microsoft's Nov. 19 Annual Shareholder Meeting, suggesting that Windows 7 had sold "twice as many units" of both boxed and pre-installed software as any other Windows operating system over a comparable period of time.
During that meeting, Ballmer declined to give exact sales numbers other than to describe them as "fantastic." He also suggested that Windows 7 would give Microsoft the opportunity to make in-roads with a younger demographic of users, such as college students, who are ostensibly enamored with Apple.
In the short time, Microsoft has reason to hope that the release of Windows 7 will allow it to maintain primacy in the operating-system market. Statistics-analysis firm Net Applications estimated in a recent report that Windows 7 occupied more than 4 percent of that market by Nov. 9, outpacing Vista; another research note from NPD Group suggested that U.S. sales of Windows 7 boxed software were 234 percent higher than sales of Vista during comparable time periods.
It remains to be seen, however, how the rising prevalence of cloud computing and browser-based operating systems such as Chrome OS could potentially affect the complexion of the OS market in the medium- to long-term. Chrome OS allows users to access applications such as Google Gmail, Calendar and other programs through a series of tabs, but will apparently not support traditional desktop applications-something that could potentially retard its spread among business users who rely on such applications.