Now that Google has shaken the tech world with its Chrome OS announcement, what's the best way for Microsoft to turn the spotlight back on itself and protect its Windows empire? Here are five ways Redmond could strike back:
You've Got a Browser OS, We've Got a Browser OS
The upcoming Google Chrome OS will be a lightweight, speedy, Web-oriented operating system designed initially for netbooks, Google tells us. And before long, Chrome will migrate to larger notebook and desktop PCS too. The message here is that the browser is the OS, while old-school operating systems like the clunky and bloated Windows are headed for the tech graveyard.
Now is a good time for Microsoft to tout its own browser-OS project: Gazelle. Like Google's Chrome OS, Gazelle will reportedly have the muscle to enforce strong security, allowing it to manage a multitude of Web applications and plug-ins, and ultimately render the traditional operating system obsolete in a cloud-centric computing world.
You've Got Vaporware, We've Got Vaporware
And why stop at Gazelle? Other reports have Microsoft working on Midori, a post-Windows OS based on a cloud-oriented, centralized-server design. In other words, Microsoft should talk up its life-after-Windows projects. They may be vaporware -- but so is the Chrome OS, at least until sometime next year.
Give Windows 7 Starter Edition Away for Free
So Google wants to play in the netbook market? Microsoft could play hardball by giving away Windows 7 Starter Edition for free. Of course, industry watchers might say this strategy would work only if the world's antitrust lawyers go on a long vacation. But what if Google offers Chrome OS for free too? Wouldn't Redmond have the right to compete head-to-head against a powerful competitor in a burgeoning market?
Run Ad Campaign, Label Chrome OS ‘Vaporware'
That's right. Sling some mud. Microsoft could attack Google in a barrage of TV spots -- not unlike the way it took on Apple in its recent Laptop Hunters ad campaign. I can see it now: A Best Buy in Anytown, USA. Lauren asks a knowledgeable clerk for a Google OS netbook. She's crushed to learn they don't exist, despite the media hype. She buys an Acer with Windows 7 instead.
Make a Big Deal of Google's ‘Beta' Obsession
Sure, endless beta programs are fine for Webmail clients (Gmail), telephony tools (Google Voice), and various productivity apps. But operating systems? Google loves to label its software apps as "not quite there yet" for years, but this approach may not fly in the OS world. Many users won't trust a beta operating system to run their primary home or business computers.
Microsoft could label Google a procrastinator, an armchair software developer, a search engine company that's dabbling in a market it doesn't fully understand. Of course, there's no indication whatsoever that the Chrome OS will be in beta for years. But when you're slinging mud, those finer points don't matter.