Analysis: Five ways Google spits on Microsoft

This week's Chrome OS announcement takes multiple shots at Windows

Google really really doesn't like Microsoft.

Even the headlines this week fed off that animus. Google Drops A Nuclear Bomb on Microsoft said one, Google Launching OS, Firing Torpedo Into Microsoft, went another.

The 655-word blog post that announced Chrome OS started it all, of course. But almost lost in the hoopla over that manifesto were the shots Google took at its rival, five taunts that jabbed at Windows' most notable, and cliched, shortcomings.

Google says: "...the operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no Web."

Translation: Windows is old -- it celebrated its 25th anniversary last November -- and creaky, with roots that go back even further into the dark days B.I., or Before Internet. And old equals bad.

Google, which is less than half that old -- it turns 11 this September -- wants to reminds people that it's a Net-centric firm, unlike Microsoft, and so should know better how to build an OS where the Web is the application platform.

An undercurrent here is the dig that, even though former CEO Bill Gate's famous "Internet Tidal Wave Memo" ( download PDF) was issued in 1995, Microsoft still didn't see search, and Google, coming.

Google says: "We're designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the Web in a few seconds."

Translation: Windows is slow, Windows is bloated, Windows takes an eternity to boot and show users the desktop.

Critics have been leveling those charges at the operating system for years, nearly as long as Windows has been around, but they picked up some serious steam when Microsoft launched Vista.

Almost immediately after Vista's 2007 debut, users flooded Microsoft support forums with complaints about lethargic start-ups and shut-downs. "I've compared it to a Commodore 64 loading programs from tape, but I think the Commodore was faster," said one user in April 2007. "I'm currently writing this on my other PC, because nothing has happened on my Vista machine for about 15 minutes."

Microsoft admitted Vista's sluggish speeds by touting under-the-hood improvements in Service Pack 1 (SP1), but went even further as it dissed the current OS when it bragged about how much faster the new Windows 7 starts up and shuts down.

In other words, Google's jab hit Microsoft where it hurts.

Google says: "...we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don't have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates."

Translation: Windows PCs are malware-ridden machines, Windows is constantly under attack, Windows requires constant frequent patching to keep the bad guys at bay.

If that sounds familiar, it should: Apple's used that argument to slam Windows in several TV commercials, including this classic. Google's dig may have been especially potent this week, when Microsoft was accused of sitting on a known bug for over a year, the same bug that hackers have been using since June 11 to infect people browsing with older editions of Internet Explorer.

Not everyone's buying Google's claim that it will be able to pull off a more-secure-than-Windows OS, however. John Pescatore, Gartner's go-to analyst on security, questioned Google's promise that Chrome OS will be ultra-safe, ultra-secure. "A lightweight 'cloud' OS that later tries to tack on the features needed to be a huskier 'real' OS would likely have just as many and likely more security issues as an OS that was built from the start assuming local processing and storage as major requirements," said Pescatore in a blog entry today. "Where Chrome [OS] should have a security advantage, just like iPhone: not having to deal with years of legacy apps and an infinite number of hardware platforms."

Google says: "They want their computers to always run as fast as when they first bought them."

Translation: A Windows PC may run spritely at first, but over time it starts to crawl, like an old dog in the hot sun seeking porch shade. In Alabama. In July.

Long-time Windows users even have a term for this: "Windows rot."

After numerous application installs and uninstalls, after update after update, after installing drivers for that new printer, after, after, after,..., Windows' performance begins to degrade. Some swear that the only way to recover from rot is to wipe the drive clean, reinstall Windows, then restore all the applications. Others say users can recover some of that lost speed by tweaking the OS.

Google says: "...they don't want to spend hours configuring their computers to work with every new piece of hardware, or have to worry about constant software updates."

Translation: Windows is a headache, plain and simple, and getting it to work right takes the patience of Job and requires that users discard any leisure time and instead dedicate hours every week to the chore.

Windows users, to greater and lesser extents, recognize this as a truth, and plan accordingly by taking the estimated time to, say, add a new printer, then doubling it for a real timetable.

Configuring a Windows PC is an art form all its own, as evidenced by the constant stream of tips, tricks and tweaks stories that publications and sites publish and post. Like this 2007 oldie-but-goodie from Computerworld's Preston Gralla, "The ultimate tweaker's guide to Windows." (And no, Gralla's not talking about a crystal meth addict's guide to Windows.)

The excellent Lifehacker site even has an entire section dedicated to nothing butWindows.

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Gregg Keizer

Gregg Keizer

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