Why we need to chill about ChromeOS


We’ve been sitting things out today as our brothers at TC pant over ChromeOS, the latest OS based on Linux to impress, however lightly, upon the synapses of our country’s journalistic elite. ChromeOS can’t beat anything. In fact suggesting that ChromeOS will beat Windows or even OS X is like expecting Coby to come up behind Sony and Samsung next year in Blu-Ray player popularity. As a wise man once said “Ain’t the same ** ballpark. It ain’t the same league, it ain’t even the same ** sport.”

ChromeOS is a specialized version of Linux designed for netbooks. It is more like Android than anything else and, as Fake Steve notes, no one will use it. Oh, manufacturers will pay lip service to it and maybe someone will install it on a few million machines but it will be a drop in the bucket compared to the powerful web OSes called Windows 7 and OS X.

ChromeOS, like Android, is a bargaining chip. OEMs can wave ChromeOS in Microsoft’s face and reduce they price they have to pay per PC for installing Windows. It won’t work, but they’ll try. Die-hard Linux users will stick with Linux and the average consumer, when presented with Chrome, will ask where the Start menu went.

Google can use ChromeOS to scare Microsoft and move more people to GMail and Google Office apps. That’s about it. And the people that move will be limited to the very few OEMs who will install ChromeOS on new machines. Netbooks are going the way of the Dodo and the race to the bottom will cause them to disappear, replaced by more powerful ultralights that will fill out the middle of the laptop market. These ultralights will be running Windows 7, not Chrome.

Fake Steve explains it all thus:

To put it another way, have you ever met anyone who said they’d really like to try out that Interwebs thing, but they’re just put off by the low-quality operating systems and browsers that are available at this time, so they’re sitting it out for now? Or like maybe they’re on the Internet now but they would just be soooo inclined to spend soooo much more time on the Web, and they’d be soooo much more likely to actually click on the ads, if the OS and browser made it somehow less onerous to, um, type in a URL and go to a page? Nah, the only point in Google giving away a free browser and OS is somehow to fuck up Microsoft. (And/or to do some sneaky shit that helps Google screw users a little bit more efficiently. See Point 8 below.) But on the anti-Microsoft angle, take it from someone who has spent the past 10 years selling a superior operating system and getting only 4 percent market share — as obsessions go, battling the Borg is waaay overrated.

And he’s absolutely right. Anyone can make a Linux install disk, call it “Super Google Linux” and rock out. There even was a Google OS – albeit an unofficial one – called gOS. And we all saw how well that went. Hell, you can even make Hanna Montana Linux for newbies but that doesn’t mean newbies will install it or manufacturers will use it. There’s no reason.

Android I’m bullish on. Android is a real threat to Windows Mobile and the HTC Hero put the first chink in Microsoft’s Mobile armor. But the HTC Hero isn’t a Google product, Google gets no cash from it, and, you’ll notice, HTC has modified Android to an extent that makes it closer to the Palm Pre than anything else. HTC took Google’s free operating system and stripped out the Google.

ChromeOS isn’t a threat. In fact it’s not even on Microsoft’s radar. It’s nice that Google is offering their philanthropic OS for all and sundry (incidentally, what are the tax implications of this kind of project?) But can it beat Windows? No and never.