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Chrome OS - Who Would've Guessed?

About 9 months ago Google released its Chrome browser. At that time I speculated that sooner or later Google would release an entire desktop operating system. Turns out the wait wasn't very long. Google has now announced Chrome OS, which will initially be targeted at netbooks, which of course is a way of saying the operating system will run on nearly any reasonably modern hardware - including all x86 and ARM architectures.

As stated by Google, Chrome OS will build on top of a Linux kernel and will be aimed squarely at getting people connected to the Internet in a matter of seconds after powering up a system. It'll support modern Web apps, which means that all the slick Ajax-enabled type stuff you see out there now - including Google Apps.

Somewhere along the line I fully expect Google to take a keen interest in Wine development too. In case you aren't aware of Wine, it free software that lets you run Windows app on a Linux desktop.

Loosely translated, the phrase "Chrome OS" could possibly mean "Microsoft you're toast" - or maybe not. That depends on whether you're looking into the future with rose colored glasses or a magnifying glass.

According to Google over 30 million people already use Chrome browser - which in my opinion is only useful if you want a browser that is stripped to the bone and has minimal functionality, and whose major claim to fame is that "it runs Javascript really fast". Ok, Chrome browser will be important later, right now it's not. My point is that if 30 million people already use a no-frills browser then a lot more are going to use a no-frills OS. Particularly if it requires almost no maintenance.

Anyone who truly thinks Chrome OS won't be any competition for Windows probably ought to rethink their logic a bit more carefully. After all, when Google's search engine came out relatively few people thought it was any big deal. Now Google basically owns the search industry and no other competitor is anywhere close to threatening their dominance.

And, maybe some of you remember how Microsoft basically (and subtly) freaked out when Sun released Java over a decade ago, because it could have easily become an entire desktop operating system environment and the folks at Redmond clearly saw that potential. So, regardless of how Microsoft executives might attempt to make jokes about Chrome OS, they are without a doubt nervous about it.

In closing this blog article I will add that I don't see Chrome OS as a threat to any other Linux distributions and frankly I don't see how anyone else could either. There are already a long list of Linux platforms that all play together in the market space just fine. In fact, the more the merrier. That's a big part of what open source is all about anyway - freedom of choice, freedom of innovation, and diversity. Microsoft on the other hand is definitely facing a threat - they could easily be pigeon holed by Google when Chrome OS takes off.

Note: Chrome is slated to be opened up for development "later this year" according to Google.

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