Wed, 15 Jul 2009

6:23 AM - Google's Chrome OS

CNN has an article on what google must do to make Chrome OS successful.   I don't agree with all the points in the article.  Apple has no incentive to port iTunes over to Linux.  Not only would they need to port iTunes, but Quicktime as well.  The latter is the real problem.  It's not easy to get a multimedia application like quicktime to work.  Apple would need to license codec use and ship a binary product on a platform full of GPL'd code and open source fans.  

Commercial applications have not done well on Linux as many users have philosophy issues with these licenses.  One could argue that Chrome OS targets a whole new audience, but we heard that about netbooks and now they've failed (with linux).  

Apple does want an alternative to windows, it's called Mac OS.  Helping a rival take market-share from you makes no sense.  Apple could justify porting iTunes over to windows because they could sell music and videos to a very large customer base;  the hardware sales of iPods and iPhones helped too.  For the chrome os port to work, apple would need to support iPods and iPhones on linux as well.  

The next problem is that the article made a big point about usability and changing the interface.  If you think that users hate applications that look different, why would Google's Chrome OS be any better?  Instead of starting a friendly application, they have to open a browser (or it's always open) and click on web pages to play a song!  I just don't see that happening.  I think it's worse than telling a user open firefox for "the internet" and thunderbird for "email".  Users memorize icons or program names, and "screens".  As someone working on this problem, I can tell you that it's very difficult to get someone to try out a new system, let alone switch to it on a daily basis.  

Finally, the business model makes little sense.  When Microsoft sold DOS and Windows for PCs, it was for all PCs.  It was risky in the sense they were shipping a system on a new competitor to Apple, but it still targeted a (eventually) large user base.  Google is making an OS for one type of computer that many fall out of fashion much like the PDA has.  You don't see 20 PDAs at your local best buy or walmart anymore.  Now it's smart phones or mp3 players or even handheld video game consoles that fulfill these duties.  As netbooks get larger, they blur on the traditional laptop.  Many netbooks are now near 12 inches.  Some years back, that was a very common size for a laptop.  It was entry level from apple, and midrange for PC vendors.  Netbook means cheap laptop that's slow now.  Eventually the CPUs will catch up and they'll just be cheap laptops.  For the same reasons as the article site with Linux, do you think a non-windows (or mac) OS can actually gain momentum in such a market?

tags: os google chrome