Can Jolicloud Win In A Chrome OS Netbook World?

Only the truly adventurous are running Chrome OS on their computers today. But it’s the elephant in the room whenever Jolicloud, an ambitious netbook operating system startup, is discussed.

We first covered the startup in late 2008, when netbooks were mostly running Windows XP or Linux. In June, when the first invites to Jolicloud went out, it looked like a winner.

But less than a month later Google announced Chrome OS, their own operating system tailored to netbooks.

Jolicloud soldiered on, raising a high profile $4.2 million venture round and finally, earlier this month, releasing a public beta of the product at Le Web in Paris.

I caught up with CEO Tariq Krim and Director Partnerships Brenda O’Connell backstage at Le Web and asked them how Jolicloud would compete with Chrome OS.

Krim doesn’t have a full answer, but he says that part of the answer is Jolicloud’s focus on partner services like Dropbox. Google will rely mostly or entirely on Google services to run Chrome OS, although you’ll be able to access website services.

Jolicloud netbooks will be able to run local high definition video, which is hard to do over the browser today. And with services like dropbox users can store files locally on their netbooks and sync them to the cloud. Chrome OS users won’t be able to store files locally on their machine, other than via offline browser access.

It’s not clear Krim believes that’s much of an advantage, though. He says in the interview that hardware is becoming unimportant and that people will start to spend that money on cloud services instead.

Jolicloud is negotiating partnerships with hardware manufacturers to ship their OS directly with devices. Eventually consumer decisions will say whether there’s a place for Jolicloud in a suddenly crowded netbook OS market. Krim, who has fought Google successfully before with Netvibes (which competes with iGoogle), seems reasonably optimistic.

The video is below: