It’s easy to forget, but Google actually has two mobile platforms: Android—and Chrome OS, which is mostly focused on netbooks.A lot of people wonder why search company Google would build not just one, but two operating systems, especially now that new CEO Larry Page has said he wants to put “more wood behind fewer arrows.”
But at the D conference, Sundar Pichai, Google’s SVP who oversees Chrome, has said Google remains committed to the platform, and even hinted that Google could give away ad-supported Chromebooks, the netbooks that run Chrome OS that it sells.
Chrome OS is a hybrid of a PC platform and a post-PC platform. It runs on netbooks, which are the most mobile PCs, and it is based on the idea that everything users do, they do inside a web browser, which is definitely a post-PC paradigm. (Netscape’s original vision was to make the desktop operating system irrelevant by taking everything inside the browser and onto the cloud.)
Chrome OS’s continuation is also a confirmation of Google’s strategic gambit with Android: flood the market with cheap devices and figure out how to make money later. That’s similar to the Android strategy: Android grabbed so much marketshare by undercutting everyone on price, which drove the carriers to adopt it and push it on consumers.
With Chromebooks, however, the revenue plan seems to be to sell Google Apps (which run in the cloud, on a browser) to large institutions, particularly schools, rather than selling ads to consumers, as is the case on Android. Note that the new Chromebook and Chromebox device page is geared entirely toward business users, and Google sells them directly through its enterprise channel.
Eventually, if Chromebooks take off in businesses, a consumer strategy based on advertising could follow.
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