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Google Chrome OS needs to prove itself

Laurent Lachal | July 13, 2009
The proof of the Google Chrome OS pudding will be in its eating.

Google has finally announced its entry into the operating system (OS) market, with the Google Chrome OS set for release in the second half of 2010 on netbooks (to start with). The company rightfully likes to try things out (for example, Chrome browser and now Chrome OS) but not all of its endeavours succeed. Its latest idea may fail to grow into a serious threat to Microsoft, although it has the potential to become an inconvenience in the netbook space.

Google as the Linux champion on netbooks

Ovum logoGoogle generates most of its revenues from advertising, but intends to diversify its revenue streams with offerings such as Google Apps, which have just (surprise, surprise) come out of beta and whose momentum the new OS aims to boost (along with Google Mail and Google Docs usage) in one of the only markets that is still showing some health: netbooks.

In a recent report entitled Netbooks: a Linux appliance opportunity we identified two main sequential trends in the netbook market.

The first is a shrinking netbook/laptop divide, with the average netbook price shooting up to A$400. After a strong start in this market segment, Linux is now increasingly being distanced by Windows, although its performance is still outstanding compared to its overall performance in the desktop market. Google Chrome OS could potentially enable it to regain some of its lost ground.

The second trend is a reaction to the first, a back-to-basics backlash with ambition to deliver netbooks that are not only cheaper ($200 on average) but also designed as appliances/mobile Internet devices (MIDs) rather than would-be laptops. In this market Google Android, which is also Linux-based, is making good progress.

In response, Microsoft needs not only to push Windows 7 forwards but also to boost its Windows Mobile offering.

The battle is on price as well as user experience

Either free (as many expect) or low cost, the new Google OS will challenge Microsofts ability to maintain profit margins. It will also challenge Windows from a user experience perspective, which is key to Linux-based netbook uptake. The objective is for it to start up […] in a few seconds, to provide a minimal user interface that stay[s] out of your way and to be secure so that users don't have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It could also be the starting point for a more integrated experience across Google applications/services and we expect it, like Android, to be linked to an online store of web applications not just to make it easier to consume these applications but also to prove that they can meet most needs.


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