When Google announced that it’s bringing an operating system to computers next year, it was a bombshell unlike anything that has hit the wire so far this year. For the first time, Google is taking on Microsoft in the place where it derives much of its income–and where it has historically dominated. Of course, that doesn’t mean Google will definitely win out. The company will have some serious work to do if it wants to capture a significant portion of the operating system market.
In the beginning, Chrome OS will be lightweight. It will be designed specifically for netbooks. Google said it will come bundled on some netbooks when it’s released next year. But anyone who believes Chrome OS will stay just on netbooks is kidding themselves. The Tiny PCs are being used as a test market. Will people like it? What needs to be tweaked? All those questions will be answered a year from now.
Google’s strategy gives the company time to roll out an even more capable software package. Just because Microsoft is dominating the OS space, it doesn’t mean that Google should rush a service to the market. Quite the contrary, it’s following a strategy that could help it over the long-term: deploy a Web-based OS on less-capable computers first and then start offering more advanced versions, for free, to those who want to use it on their computers.
But what about the enterprise? Although much of the focus of Chrome OS has been on the consumer market where it will most likely spend much of its time in the beginning, the business world is trying to figure out where it stands in all that. Will Chrome OS forget about the enterprise and, like Apple, appeal mainly to consumers? Or will Google realize that the enterprise is where Microsoft solidifies its power and take on the software giant where losses would hurt it most?
Right now, there’s no way to tell. Google hasn’t even mentioned the enterprise.
But if Google is serious about becoming an OS leader, it better start focusing on it. Whether it wants to admit it or not, the business world is where employees get to know an operating system and then, if they like it, they use that operating system on their computers at home.
And although it might not be coming anytime soon, an enterprise-friendly Chrome OS might not be such a bad idea. At its core, Google’s operating system has a host of features enterprise users just might like.
What’s better than a free operating system? Right now, Windows is costing the enterprise some big money. And although it’s a necessary cost of doing business, if Chrome OS eventually becomes business-friendly, it’s conceivable that the operating system could significantly reduce the cost of running a network. Faced with that proposition, most companies would be willing to forgo better support if it means a robust operating system that won’t cost them a dime. It could totally change the way companies make buying decisions. And it might mean a seismic shift both in the software space and in the hardware market.
A trip to the cloud, anyone?
One of the most important facets of Chrome OS is that it’s in the cloud. So, instead of forcing employees to work locally and replicate changes they’ve made to client data to the server, they can instead work online and have their progress constantly updated for everyone to see. That’s a major advancement for the business world.
Accounting firms are notorious for this. Instead of simply working in the cloud where it would be far easier to keep client progress updated, most firms have employees working locally. At the end of the day or at given time intervals, they have the option of replicating all their progress back to the server. If more than one employee is working on the same client, it can cause replication errors. When that happens, both employees will need to sort out the trouble before they can move on. With work in the cloud, it prevents those replication errors and makes for a more productive work environment.
It’s about the software
But before all this can happen, Google needs to make a concerted effort to work with third-party developers to make it easy for them to port applications to Chrome OS. Although the company said that the “Web is the platform,” it doesn’t mean anything unless developers can easily exploit it and bring their software to the OS.
That might be the biggest obstacle facing enterprise users. Since many of them rely on high-powered software, Chrome OS might not be able to handle it. If not, they will be forced to stick with Windows.
Can it get to the enterprise?
In the end, there’s no way to know if Chrome OS will actually make its way to the enterprise. There are certainly a slew of obstacles Google faces before it can meet the demands of the high-powered market sector. But if it wants to succeed, it must meet those demands. And I’m willing to bet that Google knows that.
So, I’m looking forward to big things from Chrome OS. And although it might look like a long-shot now, I’m expecting it to eventually make its way to the enterprise market. It has all the basics to make it happen.