Ahead of Chrome OS: 5 questions and concerns

As Google prepares for tomorrow's Chrome OS event, inquiring minds wonder how the OS will play in a Microsoft-dominated world

Tomorrow's hot ticket is for the Chrome OS event at Google HQ down in Mountain View. Chrome OS has already caught many imaginations, as something exciting often does, especially before the real world interrupts the fantasy.

Thursday's event may be that interruption, or maybe not. Google is expected to answer questions and perhaps even provide a developer build of its new applications-in-the-cloud, Windows-killer operating system.

I will not speculate on what Google will say or do, but instead pose five questions and concerns that need to be addressed. Maybe you share some of them:

1. Why do I want Chrome OS when I can have Android instead?

I understand why I might want Android running on a tablet, netbook, and handset. Applications that can run on all three platforms will be very useful in some circumstances.

In addition, Android apps are not Internet-based and can function without a broadband connection. Android is also developer friendly. None of these things seem to apply to Chrome, as I understand it today. Does Google really need two operating systems?

2. How must the world change for Chrome OS to be successful?

Google has described Chrome as an operating system for people who spend most of their time on the Internet.

I am one of those people, in the always-connected sense, but the current "applications on the hard drive" model serves me pretty well. If my broadband connection disappears, I can work quite happily (if disconnectedly) until communication is restored. How will Chrome OS handle this situation?

How must applications change to make Chrome OS a better choice than Windows?

3. How will Microsoft react to Chrome?

Microsoft will, predictably, point out that people once thought every user didn't need their own CPU, that the PC would be supplanted by dumb machines, incapable of doing much on their own.

Chrome OS seems to be an enabler for just such machines, which Microsoft has already beaten back, at least once. How does Google respond?

4. Do the differences between Chrome and Windows really matter?

My guess is that, operationally, Google will give Chrome the ability to seem connected, even when it is not.

If I were guessing, I would say the most important difference, ultimately, between Chrome OS and Windows will be cost. What is the total cost of ownership of a Chrome OS solution vs. a Windows-based solution? There will be other differences, of course, but dollars may be the ultimate deciding factor.

The biggest factor in the success of Chrome OS-if and when it arrives-may be its ability to disrupt Microsoft's business model, not what it does for customers (besides cost less).

5. What happens to third-party applications in a Chrome OS world?

Google needs to explain the role of third-party applications in a Chrome-plated world. Must they all be online apps that live in the cloud?

How much functionality will exist on a Chrome OS machine when it isn't connected to the cloud? Can small developers make money writing Chrome apps, or is this a game for big players and, especially, for Google to dominate?

Tomorrow, when the world's attention focuses on Google's operating system for tomorrow's world in the cloud, I hope we will get answers and not just cloudiness.

(My colleague, Ian Paul, has some Chrome OS expectations that he shared earlier today).

David Coursey tweets as @techinciter and can be contacted via his Web site.

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David Coursey

PC World (US online)
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