Lots of chatter in the news today about the new Chrome OS, a planned OS release by Google that includes the Chrome browser running on top of unix with some fixed up windowing system.
Hmmm, Unix with a reworked windowing system and webkit-based browser…where have I seen this idea before? Apple OS X! That’s right, Apple essentially ships Unix with its webkit based browser, Safari on desktop computers today.
The difference, of course, is that Google is going to give it all away. This makes sense for Google. Their biggest risk is that Microsoft will somehow steer consumers away from Google search using their control of the desktop. And Microsoft’s biggest revenue streams are Windows and Office. Answer: give away what Microsoft is selling to put pricing pressure on Microsoft and take share. Makes perfect sense.
The question is, will this be a big step forward from a user experience standpoint or is this just Google productizing what any good geek could put together today, unix running with an open source browser?
I think consumer computing really needs more than unix with window dressing. Consumer computing needs a complete reworking that does not expose the user to the memory hierarchy and file system. Apple’s iPhone and iPod touch OS do that beautifully, and I look forward to Apple’s eventual release of fullsize computers based on the iPhone OS. That will be a big step forward for consumer computing. But that won’t be free.
I have long thought that Apple would lead here at the high end of the market, redefining the user experience with the iPhone OS and that there would then be low cost alternatives provided by others on the desktop/notebook that would actually eat into Microsoft’s control of the desktop.
Personally, I am happy to see power shift from Redmond to Mountain View. Nothing Google has done indicates that they are nearly as sneaky or anti-competitive as Microsoft in their heyday. And Google seems much more publicly minded than Microsoft, with a corporate mission that is centered on organizing the world’s information. That’s a public good.
Do you wonder why Google is not just shipping firefox? Two reasons: control and revenue. Google shares revenue with Mozilla when searches run through the firefox search bar, but they don’t need to share it when it goes through Chrome. And by controlling the browser, they get to extend it, collect analytics data and make sure that search always and forever goes to GOOG. They ain’t stupid.