Chrome OS Challenges
First, Google will compete with another operating system, Linux, that has tried fruitlessly to replace Windows on consumer PCs. The Linux camp will give it another go with a Linux variant called Moblin that has the backing of Intel and is headed for netbooks soon. (No specific partners or dates have been announced.) Dell says it prefers Moblin to Chrome OS.
Google's Chrome will face another challenge from consumers. Do consumers want bare-bones netbooks tied solely to Web applications? What happens when you're on an airplane or if you can't get a wireless signal at the dentist's office? Privacy issues will also nag Google. How much do we want the company to know about our online and other computing habits?
Next, there's Google's arch-nemesis, Microsoft. Expect Microsoft to lob propaganda grenades at Google's Chrome OS later this year, perhaps with a campaign espousing the virtues of desktop software. That will happen just as it rolls out Windows 7, which Microsoft will be sure to remind us will ship on netbooks as well as desktops. Microsoft won't stop there as it protects its Windows software empire. It will flex its industry might behind the scenes, forcing hardware makers and software developers to reconsider jumping aboard the Chrome OS bandwagon.
Lastly, Microsoft will have its own brand of Web services to push. In July, it announced it would release online versions of its popular Office software to consumers for free. Microsoft is mum on specifics regarding its Web-based suite of Office apps, stating only that the suite will be available months before Google's Chrome OS is set to launch.
Google's Unstated Goal
Google's true ambition actually has less to do with building a new operating system and more to do with keeping Microsoft on its toes. By promising to deliver the Chrome OS, the search giant is challenging Microsoft to beat it in a race to a future where online programs can eventually surpass desktop software. Google is also using the threat of the Chrome OS to coax countless software developers to get serious about building Web services that run in the browser instead of the Windows operating system.
Does Google think it can topple Microsoft even on the netbook? It's wishful thinking, but if the company plays its cards right, it won't matter. Even if Google eventually gives up on Chrome OS, it will have forced Microsoft and the rest of the industry to take giant steps toward deploying cloud services. By that time, Google will be just as happy to have us access a Google Chrome Web App Store via a Windows PC or a MacBook as via a Chrome OS netbook.
What we need to ask ourselves is, what's in this for Google? Is Google really trying to make the world a better place with Chrome OS? Maybe, but at the end of the day Google wants to sell ads. Google's Chrome OS allows it to become the ultimate advertiser, owning nearly every aspect of your digital life from the operating system you use to how you search and work online.
Don't expect Google to sulk as it watches Microsoft, Apple, and others attempt to crush the Chrome OS with innovative Web-based services of their own. Google may shed some crocodile tears, but as the obituaries of the Chrome OS flash across browser windows, Google Ad Words ads may just be hawking the latest Web apps.