There are a lot of questions out there about Google’s new Chrome OS. Since little is actually known about it, the most interesting questions right now tend to be about Google’s overall strategy in making a new OS. And if such a strategy will actually work. We tend to think it will, and that belief got a huge boost in the arm today as Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has finally come out and mocked the idea.
Okay, I’m being a bit facetious, but still it’s worth noting this, for reasons I’ll get into below. First, here’s what Ballmer had to say about Chrome OS according to TechFlash:
“The last time I checked you don’t need two client operating systems. We tried it before. Windows 95 and Windows NT. It’s good to have one. So I can’t — I don’t really know what’s up at Google.”
On the face of it, that doesn’t sound like a bad point. And it’s one that plenty of others are saying. But it’s interesting that Ballmer is saying it because it’s not like Microsoft doesn’t also have a mobile OS (Windows Mobile) and a computer OS (Windows). And while yes, you can get Android to run on netbooks, I think Google realized that for most purposes, it was less than ideal.
But back to Ballmer. What makes these comments really interesting is his history of making disparaging comments about something, only to have it go on to massive success. The most obvious example of this is the iPhone “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance,” Ballmer once said (along with what he said in the video below). The iPhone has of course reshaped the mobile industry. Its combination of excellent hardware, software and the killer App Store, has forced competitors to follow its model. Yes, even Microsoft. It’s also making Apple billions of dollars in revenue, and has expanded the OS X user base by millions.
So what else?
Well, we were reminded just yesterday of his comments about Google back in 2004. “Google’s not a real company. It’s a house of cards,” he reportedly yelled at former Microsoft Distinguished Engineer Mark Lucovsky on his way out the door to Google. Five years later, Google is doing just fine, and Microsoft is still chasing them in search and advertising online. We’ll put aside what Ballmer also allegedly said about Google CEO Eric Schmidt (who is also an Apple board member) at the time.
Again, Ballmer would seem to have a bit of a point about Google’s strategy with Chrome OS, but he of course is brushing aside the fact that Google undoubtedly thought of this and you can be sure has a plan. It’s similar to how he did have somewhat of a point with the iPhone originally (that it was too expensive at $500), but Apple also had a long term plan to make it cheaper, which Ballmer naturally didn’t mention as a possibility.
Update: As a bonus, here’s what Ballmer had to say about social networking in October of 2007:
“I think these things [social networks] are going to have some legs, and yet there’s a faddishness, a faddish nature about anything that basically appeals to younger people,”
Less than a month later, Microsoft invested $240 million in Facebook — at a valuation of $15 billion. Why so high? Because it was battling Google for a stake in the “faddish” company.