Why Google Chrome OS is Overrated

by Krishna on July 11, 2009

Farhad Manjoo of Slate takes down the upcoming Google Chrome OS:

But here’s the crucial sticking point for Chrome: Because it’s based on a Web browser, every app developed for Chrome will also run perfectly on Windows or the Mac. By definition, then, Microsoft and Apple machines will always be able to do more than Chrome machines—they’ll be able to run Web apps and the processor-intensive desktop programs that we’ll still need in our glorious Webby future: movie-editing software and CAD programs, for instance. […]

This is what Google said:

For application developers, the web is the platform. All web-based applications will automatically work and new applications can be written using your favorite web technologies. And of course, these apps will run not only on Google Chrome OS, but on any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux thereby giving developers the largest user base of any platform.

If all the Google Chrome OS apps can run on other operating systems, you would want a Google Chrome-OS machine if

  • You only want/need to use web applications.
  • You are very price-sensitive.

I am not even sure if the latter applies, because presumably you could replicate Google Chrome OS by using a Firefox+Linux installation at the same cost. Why would netbook companies even use Google Chrome? Is Google paying partners to install Google Chrome OS on their netbooks, a reverse OEM licensing situation. Manjoo blasts Google’s business sense:

If 20 percent of the world’s computer users switched from Windows to Chrome, would that help Google’s bottom line? Sure, all those people would now be using Gmail and Google Docs—but they could have been doing that in Windows, too! An MBA might describe the Chrome OS as a wasteful customer acquisition expense; Google would be wiser to use all the cash that it’s pouring into developing the new program for advertising instead. But a gangster would call this move what it really is: The point of Chrome OS—the only point of Chrome OS—is to screw with Microsoft.

In fact, the whole concept of netbooks seems weird to me. Cell phones are becoming so powerful these days that for most tasks done on the go, you don’t need anything else. You can find laptops that are light and thin enough to carry around with you without being a burden. Wireless broadband cards enable you to access the Internet from different systems instead of being tied down to one machine.

Netbooks, by definition, occupy a place between cell phones and laptops. And therefore, they will be squeezed by ever-increasing functionality of the former and ever-increasing price declines of the latter. Secondly, the type of person that needs a netbook is a person who also needs a powerful cell phone and a laptop. So far from being a replacement for anything, a netbook would be an additional device, further reducing its reach.

Now, the share of netbooks in all laptops jumped from 1% to 19% in 2008. But apparently, that seems to include netbooks that are very close to being called laptops if it weren’t for their size. In any case, the type of netbooks that Google Chrome OS would serve is a niche within netbooks where, if I understand correctly, no local application other than Google Chrome would run.

Google, of all Microsoft competitors, has the best chance to supplant Windows with a different operating system. Google Chrome is a fantastic browser — I am using it now as my default browser. Yet, I cannot see this as a real game-changer unlike people like Paul Thurrott. I would think that Android has a much better chance to become big in the long run.

{ 7 comments }

Matthew Kelly July 11, 2009 at 6:19 pm

I use Google Chrome as my default browser as well, and will more than likely image my laptop with Google OS when it comes out. Google Chrome is definitely my favorite browser so far – lightweight and speed being the most important things for me. However, I do agree with you. I do not see how this will raise more revenue for Google. Additionally, I wouldn’t play around with Google OS if my laptop was my primary computer, so not sure how it will play out with end users, so not sure how much pain this would really cause Microsoft. Android however, as you mentioned, I can completely understand that!

Krishna July 11, 2009 at 11:49 pm

Matthews, I agree with you. I cannot see how I would use a laptop with Google Chrome OS on it, as I still use many desktop products.

Jeff July 13, 2009 at 3:34 pm

I guess this would be like any other Linux project in that it would be a showcase of their technologies. While I do agree that it will only serve a niche market, you would have to think about the whole Google business model. To them, all their revenue comes in the form of advertisement, and bringing in advertisement in suddle, and sometimes very sneaky ways. While I find it intrusive, I am sure there will be adds as you log in to their service, and other forms of advertisement that they are famous for. I still think it would be interesting to watch how this comes out, for better or worse though.

Krishna July 15, 2009 at 11:34 am

Yes, Jeff. Right now, Google is building its user base. Soon they will add ads based on the content (email, documents) that you create.

Janice October 20, 2009 at 3:44 am

Chrome OS is sort of a very basic operating system based on Linux. i wish that google make an operating system just like Windows XP that would compete with Microsoft

Pinoytech November 18, 2009 at 8:45 am

i tried Chrome OS and it is pretty much like a scaled down version of Ubuntu. Chrome is just based on Linux and there is nothing new about it.

Marc Henessy February 3, 2010 at 7:47 am

i installed Chrome OS on two of my netbooks. the Chrome OS works great and its loading time is very fast too.

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