10 Concerns We Have About Google Chrome OS

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10 Concerns We Have About Google Chrome OS

by Clint Boulton

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Another Operating System?

Forget the battle of Linux versus Windows versus Apple. Does the computing world really need another operating system? Google proposes Chrome OS as lightweight and designed to serve Web apps. Most consumers don't even know what that means. If Chrome OS doesn't pose truly astonishing speed and efficiency gains—from install to boot-up—what is the point? The OS is the platform on which everything else rests. If the benefits of Chrome OS aren't noticeable by even lay computer users, what's the point?

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Open Source Is No Open Road

Sure, Chrome OS is open source and a lot of people are excited about that. But does the world really need another stylized Linux distribution? We have no reason yet to believe Chrome OS will be markedly different from Ubuntu, Red Hat, Moblin or other distros out there. Moreover, Linux-based netbooks are returned to Best Buy and other retailers because customers can't get comfortable with Linux. For better or worse, it is a Windows and Apple world, and sometimes more choice breeds more confusion.

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What About Android?

Did we miss something, or didn't Google already release an operating system that is supposed to run on netbooks? Oh, yes, it's called Android and while it was originally designed with mobile devices in mind, Google has also said it expects computer manufacturers to build netbooks with it. Analysts have gone on record saying Chrome OS could dilute the Android brand, further confusing a fragmented Linux market.

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Hype Is Hard

Media built up Chrome OS as the "next big thing" for Google. If it doesn't absolutely sing on netbooks and deliver the fastest, most reliable Web application experience ever, it will be considered a failure. Google is taking a big risk putting its reputation out there with this new platform. You could make the case that the Chrome browser is a Web app, and fewer than 2 percent of the Web browsing public use it as their go-to browser, according to Web stats researchers.

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Google Is Not a Platform Vendor

Google builds Web applications, not platforms. While failure of Web apps is expected, failure in operating systems is not accepted. Microsoft has taken flak for years for its blue screens of death. If Chrome OS isn't robust enough, users will cast it aside and quickly return to Windows, Apple or some other flavor of Linux-or they will just ignore it.

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Time Isnt on Googles Side

Google said Chrome OS isn't expected to appear in netbooks until late 2010. Analysts have told us not to expect it in netbooks until at least 2011, accounting for holdups with computer makers and other snafus. That leaves a lot of time for Windows XP, Ubuntu and other OSes to charge ahead in the market. Will Chrome OS even be a viable option when it appears, or will the netbook world have passed it by? What happens, as GigaOm suggested, if carriers start selling netbooks? Google has tended to have iffy relationships with Verizon and AT&T. Will they offer Chrome OS?

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Chrome OS Bites Apple

Google and Apple have long been looked at as sort of a one-two punch and pincer move versus Microsoft. Google hits Microsoft with search and Web services, while Apple squeezes the software giant in mobile consumer electronics with the iPhone and iPod. The Chrome OS announcement cast a darker pall over Google's relationship with Apple, particularly with respect to Google CEO Eric Schmidt's seat on Apple's board. The Chrome OS introduction spurred journalists and Apple fans to clamor louder for Schmidt to give up his place at Apple. The concern is that Google and Apple are becoming too competitive; Chrome OS may have been the last straw. This could demolish the united front versus Microsoft.

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Cloudy Future for a Cloud-Based OS?

Windows, Mac OS X and other Linux distros boot up independent of the Internet. Chrome OS is assumed to be Web-based, so it will presumably boot up the Chrome browser, with the browser driving Web applications. How will Chrome OS work offline so that users can use their netbooks during flights and other places where there is no Web access? Presumably, Google will implement Google Gears to enable offline functionality, but how is it possible to make the offline computing experience rich enough to even the casual user?

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Game-Changer or Misdirection?

A big contingent of pundits, bloggers and industry experts believe Chrome OS was created for the same reason Google released Google Apps: misdirection. Some believe Google is just trying to distract Microsoft with competing products while it steams ahead in search. The same folks believe Google doesn't intend these products to make a huge dent in the market, but will force Microsoft to address the challenges while Google extends its lead in search and online ads, which is where Google's money is made. Is Chrome OS a ploy?

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Failure an Option?

The deck seems stacked against Google for any degree of success with the operating system. Just as people questioned whether the world needed Android, we question the need for Chrome OS. And if we don't need it, how will it succeed to be the game-changer Google's Schmidt proclaimed it to be? Thanks to its pole position in search ads, Google acts as if it doesn't worry much about making money from its free software. But Chrome OS is set up for a double failure. Not only may it not take off, but it's being released as an open-source product so it may not make the company money either. If Chrome OS fails, Google will look really weak and foolish for putting out a product that becomes another also-ran to Windows. It will lose respect in the public eye. For that reason, failure is not an option for Chrome OS.