Americans love chrome on motorcycles and toasters, but will average consumers take a shine to the Google Chrome operating system? Google announced its lightweight Chrome computer operating system today and says consumers can expect it by the end of 2010. Google describes the operating system as lean and mean and perfect for small Internet-friendly devices that are both easy-to-use and transport -- such as a netbook.
True, netbooks are very popular with consumers right now, but will they be in 2010 and can Google ride the netbooks' coattails into the heart of consumers?
Google Chrome: A Nerd's Dream Come True
My guess is that though bleeding-edge technology lovers and fanatics will think this is "cool" news, the average technology-hungry consumer will have more questions about this option than answers.
Innovation is a great thing, but the question isn't about Google's innovative spirit, it's about what consumers want and need. After all, consumers don't like too many confusing choices. Ever scratch your head in the laundry detergent aisle at the grocery store asking yourself "do we really need 30 different brands?"
Here's what consumers want to know:
*What is Chrome? It's a new operating system -- the code the runs all the programs and hardware on a computer or device. Chrome is being built on top of the code that also runs the alternative Linux operating system. Linux is a free and competitive alternative to Windows.
*Why should I care? It will be another operating system to consider when buying a netbook. Your other options are buying a Netbook that runs Linux or Microsoft Windows.
*How are operating systems different? Like Fords, Chevrolets and Toyotas, these computer operating systems are built differently, have different features and some are more popular than others.
*So does the OS truly matter for me, the consumer? That is the million-dollar question.
So far, as netbooks have grown in popularity, it appears that consumers do apparently care which operating system powers their Netbooks, but not for the reasons you might think.
They don't care whether it's a Ford or a Honda engine under the hood. Many may not know how to tell a hard drive from a CPU fan or spark plug. But what consumers like is familiarity and comfort.
* So are they buying up Netbooks that run Linux because Linux is cool? No. Instead, consumers bought Linux-powered Netbooks initially because that was what the first wave of Netbooks ran to save money. But as Microsoft worked on a smaller, feature-laden version of its Windows operating system to power Netbooks, manufacturers began buying it cheaply and loading it on to their new Netbooks.
And what happened to the Netbook marketplace after Windows started appearing on Netbooks? Well, that's when consumers saw the Windows label, which is familiar and friendly, and decided to buy the Windows versions because they already know how to use them and are familiar with them.
Since then, the Linux-powered Netbook market has fallen drastically, according to industry analysts, while Windows versions are today's shiny chrome on a fancy Harley-Davidson. It gets consumers in the door and helps make the sale.
What consumers do care about, though, is whether Chrome or any other new operating system will run their favorite programs, like Apple's iTunes or Microsoft Office. Those will be among the measures of success for Chrome or anything that follows it. We'll have to wait to get those answers.
So what's this all mean for Google? Well, wanting to be innovative is a great thing.
But this looks like a hard road that Google is about to enter. That's not to say they shouldn't do it.
The question is, what will you, the consumer, get out of it. Americans love chrome.
But will they love this Chrome? Let the polishing begin.