Chrome's mission: Making Windows obsolete

Some people are already convinced that Google will fail with its Chrome operating system. Others think that Chrome can't possibly be a threat to Windows. Both groups are so, so wrong.

First, for those who think that Chrome is simply a failure from the word "go", their reasoning is pathetically flawed. They argue that Chrome will fail because it's based on Linux. What century are these people from?

The specific complaints, such as "From power management to display support, Linux has long been a minefield of buggy code and half-baked device driver implementations." reveal that they're coming from people who know nothing whatsoever about Linux. Linux is tried and proven.

You don't have to believe me, though. Just look at the world around you. Linux rules on devices from your TiVo DVR to your Droid smartphone to you name it. Linux kicks rump and takes names on supercomputers, where nothing else is even competitive. And Linux rules stock markets, where failure is never an option.

The only place where Linux hasn't been a strong competitor has been on the desktop. There are many reasons why desktop Linux hasn't done well: number one has been Microsoft's desktop monopoly. With Google's backing, however, Chrome avoids the Linux desktop's real problems.

The other compliant, that somehow the Web interface isn't sufficient, also flies in the face of reality. Google has been showing us for years now that almost everything you can do on a computer, you can do with a Web interface. So what if the interface itself isn't groundbreaking?

What is revolutionary is that Google isn't trying to fight with Microsoft in a mano-a-mano battle for the desktop. No one, especially not Google, is claiming that Chrome OS is a direct competitor to Windows 7. At the high end, where power users use applications like Autodesk or Photoshop, Chrome simply won't play.

Instead, Google is saying that, for most users, most of the time, Windows is obsolete. And it's not just Windows: Google is telling us that we don't need Office, Outlook, and all the other day-in, day-out Windows applications, either.

Google suggests that inexpensive Chrome OS devices, not Windows PCs, are all that most people need for most of their home and office computing. With Chrome OS devices and Web-based services, you won't need to pay the Windows tax or buy Microsoft Office.

It's a radical approach. Google is saying: sure, go ahead and use Windows where you have to — but keep in mind that, for your second computer, or if you don't need high-end PC-specific applications, Chrome OS is all you'll need.

I can see this working. Chrome OS is faster, safer and cheaper. In addition, unlike Windows PCs, Chrome laptops won't require monthly maintenance to keep them running well. In short, Google is trying to make Windows, and all the software that goes with it, obsolete for most users, most of the time.

I like this plan — I like this plan a lot. Rather than trying to take Windows head on, Google is using 21st century technology to reinvent the desktop operating system and question just how important the 1980s style desktop is today. You'll know it's working even before the first Chrome OS netbooks appear if Microsoft revamps Windows 7 Starter Edition to make it more fully functional and cheaper. Keep your eyes on Chrome OS and Microsoft's reactions against it. I'll be very interested to see how this plays out.

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