Google's Chrome OS: What's in it for Microsoft?

Chrome OS is something Microsoft can actually benefit from, if it will relax and see the opportunities

Watching Google's Chrome OS event made me realize: There is a lot in Google's OS that can benefit Microsoft--like giving it a completely new platform and one it needs. If Google is really true to its open source promises, Microsoft should join the fun.

(Take our visual tour of Chrome OS if you don't already know what the fuss is about).

Some will doubtless see such a move as "Microsoft tries to hijack Chrome OS" but that would not be the case. Chrome OS will be stronger and better if Microsoft participates, not necessarily as a leader, but by contributing when possible and making sure that Microsoft's cloud fits within the Chrome OS vision. And vice versa.

If Chrome OS is truly open source, then Google will not get incredible advantage from the mere existence of the operating system--no royalties, for example. It will not be a cash cow like Windows.

Yet, Chrome will move the world in a Google-friendly direction. That direction can be Microsoft-friendly, too.

If Microsoft decides to help with Chrome OS, it needs to be an honest effort, not sabotage. Of course, at the same time, Microsoft helps with Chrome OS, others at Microsoft will be trying to bash Chrome's brains in.

Perhaps, Microsoft will also do its own Chrome OS equivalent. Something that works better alongside the traditional applications we will continue to use.

During the Chrome OS presentation, I think I managed to be overwhelmed by how Chrome could change things and underwhelmed by what Google actually has to do to accomplish that task. There is not anything all that magic in what Google is doing.

Perhaps, Microsoft can make the case that Chrome is too limiting, and prove it with improvements to its own operating systems.

Microsoft can, at least, create links between the traditional applications and computers we will continue to use and the Chrome OS netbooks that Google promises for Christmas 2010.

Pundits want to make Chrome OS a Google vs. Microsoft thing, but it does not have to be that way.

Chrome OS may give Microsoft a way out of some of its problems--like how to move to a cloud-based computing model--at the same time it helps level the playing field between the two rivals.

Alternately, Microsoft can do everything possible to thwart the success of Chrome OS. That probably will not work and would be a waste of time and effort, besides. It is far better for Microsoft to embrace Chrome OS than to try to smother it.

If Chrome is not successful, it will be because the cloud model fails to win acceptance or because of some technical or marketing error by Google. My guess is Chrome will be at least a limited success, as well as one Microsoft can benefit from.

Chrome OS is clearly the next train out of the station and Microsoft needs to be aboard.

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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