Google has plenty of tech challenges ahead with Chrome OS, its Web browser-based operating system that it promises will ship next year. But Google — and its partners — also have a huge business challenge: Figuring out who the heck is going to buy a device that only runs Web apps.
In a lengthy, excellent essay called “Putting What Little We Actually Know About Chrome OS Into Context,” Daring Fireball’s John Gruber discusses a bunch of Chrome OS issues.
The most important, as far as whether Google’s effort will result in business success or failure: The fact that there really is no large, obvious market for Chrome OS devices — essentially, netbooks with even less power than today’s netbooks.
Gruber: Is it feasible to use Chrome OS as your sole computer? If not, how big is the market for “secondary” computers, especially as (a) more and more people buy laptops to serve as their primary machine, and (b) more and more people buy iPhones and Pres and Android-based mobile phones? I say: not very big. In short, will Chrome OS pass the dog food test: is it something Google’s own engineers will want to use?
I’m sceptical about the prospects of any new system or product that isn’t intended for use by the people creating it. Gmail, for example, is the best web mail system because it was designed to be used not just by “typical” users but by expert users, including the engineers at Google who made it. The iPhone is simple enough to appeal to almost anyone, but guess which phone the people who created it use?
Make something intended not for your own use, but for use by dummies, and you’ll usually wind up creating something dumb. The future of computing probably is in the direction of thin clients connecting to network services for storage and software, but my hunch is that Chrome OS is too thin.
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