Chrome will be different but won't displace Windows

If successful, Google OS could spawn a whole new class of faster, cheaper, diskless PCs

The following is a reader-written article from David Pinkus, a former high-level Google employee who is now senior vice president of information technology for Universal Technical Institute.

I think a lightweight, browser-only operating system has been a long-time coming.  It's the actualization of what the network computer dream has been; albeit with the predictable concessions that the network isn't always available, and you need something resident on the machine itself to make it useful. But I was still surprised when I heard NPR lead off its Morning Edition newscast with Google's "Attack on Microsoft." Is it going to displace the Microsoft Windows desktops in most companies?  Is it a harbinger of a new computing model?  Here's what I think we'll see happen in the next 18-24 months:

Is Google the only one that benefits?

Google obviously benefits from having more users do more searches with Google. This is the "long tail" concept.  Even if a particular ad only nets Google a fraction of a penny, with enough of those fractions, those ads create significant income.  But others win, too. For hardware vendors, having a free operating system and browser that require minimal support, and come from a brand with a lot of consumer goodwill,  is a big win.  Consider how a PC OEM will feel if relieved of the support burden and associated costs (both material and to its reputation) simply to help new PC users "get started" with today's operating systems.

Can Google be counted on to secure its new OS?

I think so. First, there's the whole open-source-is-more-secure argument. More eyeballs on your source code theoretically means more people looking for vulnerabilities (and exploits).  Google could have a leg-up overall. The leaner the operating system, the less things exist that could be compromised.

Will the Chrome OS alienate Android developers?

If Android developers were under the impression that Android would be as available on netbooks as readily as Windows 7, then perhaps, but I think Google's approach here is simpler.  Forget the OS, forget apps, do everything in a browser.  Android is when you need more than what a browser does.

Is this different than what other vendors have been doing with various Linux distributions for netbooks or similar devices?

Yes, because it boldly attempts to exclude everything except the browser (although clearly it will have to have some internals, such as wireless configuration, date/time configuration, etc., all no doubt rendered through the browser).

What advantages will the device user see?

Super-fast boot times:  This is so long overdue.  Recycling my Windows machine still takes 6 minutes.  Recycling my Mac is much better (and I do it far less frequently), but lean manufacturing pundits would cite the time it take to restart or boot a computer as the epitome of "waste."

Even cheaper netbook computers:  Now an OEM needs to only worry about a nice screen, an input device of some sort (keyboard or pen or gestures), some resident memory and a robust wireless interface.  There is a big form-factor play here though; smaller keyboards can be frustrating for larger hands (dare I say for grown-ups?) but at the same time, since people come in all sizes, maybe it's time that keyboards came in multiple sizes.  Add ruggedization, some fun colors (iPhone accessories clearly prove there is a market for that) and better battery life and I expect we'll see Chrome OS devices for many members of the family.

The key question here though is "How cheap will they get?", and what's the delta between how cheap these devices get and the next device that runs Windows or MacOS.

Less bloated applications:  I'm writing this with Google Docs and it is all I need.  I don't need 1000 features in my word processor.  I need about 10.

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David Pinkus

Network World
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