Suddenly, it's a death-match: Google readies Windows rival

As Microsoft launches Bing against Google, the search giant has struck back, straight at Steve Ballmer's heart, announcing a full-blown PC operating system, called Chrome OS, to appear mid-2010.

The move recasts the rivalry between the two companies.

Google is already targetting one of Microsoft's biggest cash cows, Office, with its cloud-friendly Google Apps (free in its ad-supported Standard version, $US50 per user per year in its Premiere corporate version, supported in NZ by Fronde). Now, it's going after the other, Windows.

This just became a death-match.

A Linux-based rival to Windows is nothing new. Microsoft has shrugged them off for years.

But people who would run a mile from Ubuntu know and trust Google as user-friendly.

This is big.

This is nuclear.

Only one company will emerge from this tussle, at least as we know it today.

Certainly, the October 23 release of Windows just got a whole lot more significant. Ditto the 2010 release of Office 14 and Microsoft's companion effort that will see versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint that can run in any web browser, nested inside any OS (so, for example Microsoft Office files could be edited from within Firefox on a Linux PC).

Extra to Android
Although the lightweight ChromeOS shares its focus on netbooks, it is a parallel initiative to the netbook version of Google’s Android OS, which is due on models from Acer and others in October (read Android goes A-List). Dell and HP - the world's largest PC maker - are also experimenting with Google Android.

So far, there is only one model of Android smartphone, the HTC Magic (aka the G2, the follow-up to HTC's G1). But it's early days. Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and LG, among others, have Android models on the way.

Heavy duty partners
Chrome OS will be capable of running x86 computers. That is, Intel PCs.

It will also be compatible with ARM processors, used in many lower power devices such as smartphones, and the coming all-band 3G species of netbook, the smartbook.

Official partners include Acer, Adobe, Asus, Freescale, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments.

All web, all of the time
The new operating system shares the same name as Google’s web browser, whose interface is designed by a team lead by Kiwi ex-pat Ben Goodger (read NBR interview here).

And the company says ChromeOS will share a lot of Chrome the browser’s traits, including its minimalist interface and speedy performance. The company promises it will boot a laptop, and get you connected to the web, in seconds.

Like Android, which Google is migrating up the device food chain from smartphones to netbooks, ChromeOS will run on a Linux kernel.

But in look and feel, it will be very browser-centric. Essentially, it could make any tradtional desktop OS - bet it Windows or Android - redundant.

Read Google's full announcement here.

And lastly, this just in from our Italian friends at oneComics.it:

Update: Google has announced partners on board "to design and build devices" for the OS include major laptop makers Acer, ASUS, (Acer and ASUS are the no. 1 and no. 2 netbook manufacturers worldwide) Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo, software maker Adobe, and chip manufacturers Freescale, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments.

The only major netbook players missing at this stage are Toshiba and Dell.

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13 Comments & Questions

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Chris - as a geek I'm excited as anyone about ChromeOS but please, "nuclear"?

This development has been coming for years - Microsoft is full of smart people and not everything that Google touches turns to gold - there's many more twists and turns to this store before we can stamp "The End" on it...

More here - https://www.cloudave.com/link/adding-to-the-chromeos-deluge

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For years and years - quite literally gulf between XP and Vista - Microsoft had no particular incentive to innovate.

Now it faces a huge threat. Linux is scary to most business people and home users, but a Google OS will be instantlhy seen as user-friendly.

Microsoft will have to really hustle along the browser-borne elements of Office 14 (covered in the article above), and its coming cloud platform, Azure. It may hold it's own, or prevail, but it's way software model, and business model, will get turned on its head. Interesting times.

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Chris - I'm an evangelist of all things cloud - Hell most of my living I make from Web based software related stuff. That said the reality is that the vast majority of the world know Google as a "search thingy internet" - it's a huge leap from that to replacing "that word program thingy" and "that Windows thingy".

And in terms of business people - again I evangelise the value of web software 120% - but the (somewhat sad) fact is that people know and use windows and office - online apps are foreign to them.

I totally agree it shouldn't be this way, and totally agree that things are changing - but the rate of change is hardly nuclear, it's more glacial - and Microsoft, with it's software plus services model (basically taking the stuff you know and use and letting you collaborate around it online) isn't being quite as stupid as the digerati would like to suggest...

Interesting times - and thanks for the debate....

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Netbooks will be the first battle as it is the best early fit. If the user mostly wants a browser there is some fit. But for a fuller machine where you need to print, scan from a scanner etc. it will take until those devices move to the web (even in your home) and therefore are agnostic and have standard interfaces rather than drivers.

That will take a while. Probably 10-15 years.

Should be fun though.

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Sorry Chris, You are wrong this time. It ain't going to happen as you predict it would. I am sure people won't change over as easily. Most people do not even change from pc to mac (e.g. you) let alone change from pc to google os.

Have you seen the data on Bing? They have gained market share by 9% since Bing came out, it seems MS is kind of getting it right now.

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ChromeOS's angle is that you dont' have to dump your PC and go out and buy a Mac. You can keep your PC, and a familiar web browser-style enviroment. You can already do that with Linux, on which ChromeOS will be based, but Google has a much friendly environment.

I can see ChromeOS easily gathering a following over the couple of years after its mid 2010 release, especially if it Google gets a similar stable behind it as it has lined up for Android (that is Acer confirmed, HP and Dell confirming they have Android products in development).

Netbooks are the fastest growing - and indeed only growing - segment of the PC market. ChromeOS can move up the food chain from there. I agree Microsoft won't yield ground easily.

The likes of ComScore and StatCounter have shown Microsoft gaining 1 to 3% market share with Bing, which is a good start in the US, where Bing's decision engine and other headline features have been implemented. Great reason to bring them to the NZ version of Bing.

NBR Towers runs on an Apple network, incidentally.

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Maybe the ex-pat Kiwi should have helped the herald redesign their site. I saw it for the first time this morning.... what an absolute shocker!!

Talk about information overload.

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Well they have only just taken Gmail out of beta after 5 years and cannot keep that up all the time.

Plus the have not even started Chrome OS so me thinks this is a little spin. And how many Android phones are on the market? Not a lot given the hype over Android before it was released.

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Chris, it's not often that I agree with you, but in this case, I think we've got a game changer. When you look at
a) the combination of ARM-based "smartbooks", Intel's commitment to taking back that market, thus creating a rare consumer-focused competitive marketplace in this space,
b) the emerging fleet of pretty sharp Android phones,
c) the increasing focus among the next generation of computer users on web applications (they're they lion's share of Gmail and Facebook users),
d) the existing marketshare of desktop Linux (frequently asserted by Microsoft apologists - who want it to remain seen as fringe - as 1%, but probably more like 10%) and
e) the pre-eminence of Linux as the "engine of the cloud" and the primary platform for the Internet (where MS Windows is a minor player),

I think I see a big problem for Microsoft. Their hyper-defensive behaviour for the past few years - e.g. buying off/intimidating netbook vendors to get them to stop promoting/selling Linux-based netbooks (e.g. the Asus' EEE PC), and their attempts to promote Linux as "disappointing to users expecting Windows" has all been based on maintaining a public perception that Windows continues to be mainstream, and Linux fringe and hard-to-use... With Google putting their substantial weight (and, let's face it, Microsoft have got NO cred as an innovative corp) behind the web and Linux (the platforms on which their entire business is built), it suddenly changes the picture for the mass market: if Google promotes it, it's worth a look. I'd say MS are watching their empire falling down around them... and they know it, even if the general public don't.

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Chris, it's not often that I agree with you, but in this case, I think we've got a game changer. When you look at
a) the combination of ARM-based "smartbooks", Intel's commitment to taking back that market, thus creating a rare consumer-focused competitive marketplace in this space,
b) the emerging fleet of pretty sharp Android phones,
c) the increasing focus among the next generation of computer users on web applications (they're they lion's share of Gmail and Facebook users),
d) the existing marketshare of desktop Linux (frequently asserted by Microsoft apologists - who want it to remain seen as fringe - as 1%, but probably more like 10%) and
e) the pre-eminence of Linux as the "engine of the cloud" and the primary platform for the Internet (where MS Windows is a minor player),

I think I see a big problem for Microsoft. Their hyper-defensive behaviour for the past few years - e.g. buying off/intimidating netbook vendors to get them to stop promoting/selling Linux-based netbooks (e.g. the Asus' EEE PC), and their attempts to promote Linux as "disappointing to users expecting Windows" has all been based on maintaining a public perception that Windows continues to be mainstream, and Linux fringe and hard-to-use... With Google putting their substantial weight (and, let's face it, Microsoft have got NO cred as an innovative corp) behind the web and Linux (the platforms on which their entire business is built), it suddenly changes the picture for the mass market: if Google promotes it, it's worth a look. I'd say MS are watching their empire falling down around them... and they know it, even if the general public don't.

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I'll be switching to Google OS when it comes out. I already use Chrome Browser and really like it. I would like to be able to jettison the iPhone which doesn't get along with my PC and move to a PC OS/Smartphone OS/Web Browser combination which works together well. Looking forward to Sony Ericsson's Android offerings with much greater excitement now.

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Microsoft = Ford
Google = Toyota

Look at the history- it looks like it is about to repeat

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Kiwi ex-pat Ben Goodger gets to take on MS's most famous Kiwi (as he would modestly describe himself), one Chris Liddell.
At least Goodger doesn't have the mass-destruction of buildings and families caused by leaky homes -- the product of dodgy decisions by our former tree-fella turned super bean-counter -- on his conscience. Assuming Liddell ever had one?
Go Ben, go.

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