Google will launch its own operating system in the second half of next year, finally launching a direct assault on Microsoft’s crown jewel.
(It has been headed here in all but name for the past two years. But last night it finally declared war.)
The OS will initially be targeted to netbooks, then broadened to all PCs. It will be a combination of a Google Chrome browser and a Linux kernel. It will be a different project than Android. It will be designed to be simple and fast. It will also, presumably, be free.
Google’s blog post announcing the browser is below. A few points:
A year of development is a long time, and it shows how complex an undertaking this will be. Announcing the product a year early is also a major break with Google tradition and shows how much Google needs help from partners in this endeavour to be successful. (An OS that is distributed only by downloads won’t work. It needs to come loaded on the machine. This has been the big problem with Chrome so far, and Google needs to address it.)
Success is far from guaranteed. Google’s browser initiative, Chrome, has been a fun little science project, but as a product it has been a flop. The same can be said for almost all of Google’s non-search products. If Google wants to have a chance at success in this business, it needs to focus on it with the same intensity it once put into search. This will be challenging for Google, which, for the last several years, has had the luxury of dabbling in whatever it pleases.
Assuming the OS is free to both users and OEM PC makers, Microsoft will need to soup up the free version of its own Windows 7 OS for netbooks (right now, Microsoft’s plan is to ship a crappy free version of 7 and try to get users to upgrade. Eventually, if Google starts to gain traction, Microsoft may need to panic.)
This is classic disruption. Disruptive technologies do not immediately replace existing technologies because they are better. In fact, in the beginning, they are worse. They’re just simpler, cheaper, and more convenient. They appeal to the low end of the market (in this case, netbooks), which doesn’t need all the bells and whistles that the high-end needs. They initially gain share in the low end, and the incumbent doesn’t care about losing it because it’s low-margin share. But then… the disruptive products get better and more fully featured and they begin to migrate up to the mid-market. And the incumbent is forced to retreat to the high-margin high-end. And then, eventually, the disruptive product becomes mass market and the incumbent becomes a rickety old colossus that crashes in on itself.
Microsoft needs to forget about competing with Google on search and start figuring out how to defend its crown jewels against this assault. It won’t be easy. But blowing $10 billion going after a business they don’t have to be in while ignoring the front-line invasion Google just launched will be disastrous.
Apple needs to worry, too. Not as much as Microsoft, obviously. But Apple sells integrated hardware and software devices. And if free software begins to take over the world, that will increase the price advantage that Apple’s competitors already have.
All of this is at least a year away. That’s a decade in the technology business. But it will be the story of the year…
Here’s Google’s blog post:
Introducing the Google Chrome OS
7/07/2009 09:37:00 PMIt’s been an exciting nine months since we launched the Google Chrome browser. Already, over 30 million people use it regularly. We designed Google Chrome for people who live on the web — searching for information, checking email, catching up on the news, shopping or just staying in touch with friends. However, the operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web. So today, we’re announcing a new project that’s a natural extension of Google Chrome — the Google Chrome Operating System. It’s our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be.
Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010. Because we’re already talking to partners about the project, and we’ll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve.
Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We’re designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.
Google Chrome OS will run on both x86 as well as ARM chips and we are working with multiple OEMs to bring a number of netbooks to market next year. The software architecture is simple — Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel. For application developers, the web is the platform. All web-based applications will automatically work and new applications can be written using your favourite web technologies. And of course, these apps will run not only on Google Chrome OS, but on any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux thereby giving developers the largest user base of any platform.
Google Chrome OS is a new project, separate from Android. Android was designed from the beginning to work across a variety of devices from phones to set-top boxes to netbooks. Google Chrome OS is being created for people who spend most of their time on the web, and is being designed to power computers ranging from small netbooks to full-size desktop systems. While there are areas where Google Chrome OS and Android overlap, we believe choice will drive innovation for the benefit of everyone, including Google.
We hear a lot from our users and their message is clear — computers need to get better. People want to get to their email instantly, without wasting time waiting for their computers to boot and browsers to start up. They want their computers to always run as fast as when they first bought them. They want their data to be accessible to them wherever they are and not have to worry about losing their computer or forgetting to back up files. Even more importantly, they don’t want to spend hours configuring their computers to work with every new piece of hardware, or have to worry about constant software updates. And any time our users have a better computing experience, Google benefits as well by having happier users who are more likely to spend time on the Internet.
We have a lot of work to do, and we’re definitely going to need a lot of help from the open source community to accomplish this vision. We’re excited for what’s to come and we hope you are too. Stay tuned for more updates in the fall and have a great summer.
Posted by Sundar Pichai, VP Product Management and Linus Upson, Engineering Director
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