When Google first announced Chromium and Chrome I said that the search giant was positioning the new browser as a Windows killer and not necessarily as an Internet Explorer competitor.
How can a browser take on an entire operating system? Well, fast forward a few years, and get ready for the first Chromebook (expected in June 2011) powered by Chrome OS a new open source platform based on the Chrome browser.
So the inherent question at this point in time is whether Chrome OS is indeed a Windows killer or not. I’m sure that there are quite a few in Redmond that have asked the same thing themselves.
Answering with a definitive NO to this question would be a huge mistake for the software giant. For anyone else as well.
Sure enough, there are already a range of opinions over the Windows–killer factor of Chrome OS, and quite a few making a wonderful job at highlighting the caveats of this new platform based on the open source Chrome browser.
I do agree with some, even though they are people far too comfortable in using Windows, so comfortable in fact that they’re blind to the real potential of Chrome OS.
Simple, simple, simple
I don’t agree that all consumers want, or better yet, need the full Windows operating system on their computers. I’m thinking about one of my friends in particular who hasn’t installed a new application in years.
I know this because I set up the machine she’s using, gave her standard user privileges and locked everything else in place through my admin account.
Usage scenarios involve basic activities, listening to music, watching movies, browsing the web, editing documents, etc. A Chrome OS netbook would be perfect for her.
It’s this simplicity that will be appealing to some consumers, and simplicity is a factor that should not be ruled out under any circumstances. Democratizing IT to this level means that all that’s required to run Chrome OS is to have used a browser before. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.
Chrome OS and Chromebooks downsides
There are a few disadvantages to Chrome OS and Chromebooks. First of all, there’s no choice in the software customers will be running locally.
If a particular site or web application doesn’t work with Chrome then users are stuck. They can’t swap browsers, they can’t install anything else. Chrome OS does a wonderful job at locking users in completely.
I can only imagine the “Armageddon” that would ensue if Microsoft would ever allow only its applications to run on Windows, or let’s say, just the Internet Explorer browser, and close the platform to everything else.
Connectivity can be another disadvantage. Chromebooks and Chrome OS need a constant network connection if they are to function as they were intended to.
But quality connectivity and high speed broadband are far from universal. Slow speed connections and offline scenarios will not make Chromebook users happy.
Yes, there are a plethora of Cloud applications available, and their number will only increase. Web apps do mimic at least to some degree desktop programs available. That’s indeed fine for the basic user, but advanced users and IT professionals might feel the need for more.
But let’s not forget Google’s definition of the Chromebooks:
“A Chromebook is a mobile device designed specifically for people who live on the web. With a comfortable full-sized keyboard, large display and clickable trackpad, all-day battery life, light weight, and built-in ability to connect to Wi-Fi and mobile broadband networks, Chromebooks are ideal for anytime, anywhere access to the web. They provide a faster, safer, more secure online experience for people who live on the web, without all the time-consuming, often confusing, high level of maintenance required by typical computers.”
And speaking about the Chrome OS machines themselves, I’m not all that impressed with the Samsung and Acer devices. But they are after all netbook equivalents, and not computing powerhouses, and with retail prices generally around or under $500 users will get what they pay for.
The subscription price will have customers pay as much as double that amount over three years, but $28 per month gets them not just the Chromebook but also enterprise-level support, device warranties and hardware refreshes replacements.
I do have to agree that Chrome OS is secure, although I’m not referring to the quality of the code, but to the novelty of the solution.
Not that the code of the new open source operating system is lacking in terms of quality (there are features such as tab sandboxing, user data encryption, and verified boot), but even with Google saying that Chrome OS and Chrome were built with security in mind, a recent attack put together by VUPEN proves that they’re not bulletproof.
Still, Chrome OS is a new product with almost no market share. As such it’s bound to be all but ignored by attackers, since it simply won’t be worth for them to invest time, effort and money into targeting an extremely limited number of users, when there’s the mass of Windows users, some of which sitting ducks.
This being said, I think it’s extremely dangerous for Google to say that no security solutions are necessary. While this might be indeed the case today, tomorrow it could change dramatically.
Moreover, while widespread attacks are bound to ignore Chrome OS altogether, what about targeted attacks? Customers should not get the wrong idea that Chrome OS is infallible. It’s not.
And then there’s Google, and Google can do no wrong, especially for those users that are looking for anything else than what Microsoft has to offer.
Google is in an extremely powerful position now, one that allows it to have only its own technologies in Chrome OS and nothing more. As I’ve said, if Microsoft would try to do the same thing with Windows, the company would be ripped apart.
The Chrome browser has literally exploded over the past year, and it continues to push ahead with strong growth. It managed to steal quite a bit of users from IE and it also stopped Firefox from gaining any additional market share.
Chrome OS is not a Windows killer, not yet anyway, but there will be consumers opting for Chromebooks instead of Windows PCs, laptops or netbooks, especially because of their inherent simplicity and ease of use.
I also see business users at least starting to pilot Chromebooks, although I doubt they’ll make the jump immediately. Paying for machines per a subscription model; reducing Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) by eliminating or automating machine image creation, application distribution, patching, and upgrades; benefiting from support, device warranties and replacements per their hardware refresh cycle all for $28 per month are all details of an offer aimed at business users, especially those on Windows.
Would you buy a Chromebook? Would you make the jump to Chrome OS?
Instead of presenting my own conclusions I’d like to hear from you. I do believe that there are both consumers and business customers that would find Chromebooks better suited for their needs than Windows machines. What do you think?
Nah! For now I'm happy with what I have, Win 7! I'm still looking forward to the Win 8 though. For my grandma who needed communication over the net, it will be great for her. NO hassles and bustles. Just plain communication over the web. Forget about others...just the web! LOL
Make that 5 years and you are spending more money than a computer (with less capability) actually costs. Most computers should last more than 5 years (except for apple ones which last one day more than their warranty period). Plus what will happen to us hobbyist coders?
I'm a programmer and long time Linux fan, I use Ubuntu at home and WinXp at work (Chrome browser in both, with bookmarks synchronized).
At home I do a lot of web browsing/reading (and there are days when I use my computer only for that). I'd love to do this in the comfort of my couch or bed, but I don't want to buy a 700$ laptop because I actually don't need it.
Aside from that I often go travelling /camping, and I don't want to take a 700$ laptop with me, but would like a bit of internet on a 7 day trip to the country side.
So, for me, a (almost) disposable, fast-boot internet machine is a perfect complement to my power-house linux desktop.
Comment #6.1 by: aluthgedara on 16 May 2011, 12:37 GMT
hmmm say you went on a holiday... suddenly you ran out space in ur camera... wonder how long it will take you to upload your pictures to chromebook, given you have access to internet in the first place :). without any local storage, your phone is more useful than chromebooks.