Microsoft, other rivals slam Google Chrome OS

Seven-second boot times, total reliance on Web fail to impress

Microsoft Corp. is, predictably, not all that impressed by Google Inc.'s demonstration of its upcoming Chrome OS today, but neither were potential rivals who make Linux and instant-on operating systems.

Google released Chrome OS as open source today. It did not, however, release a beta of the operating system for users, and said that hobbyists who would want to install it on their existing netbook or other hardware were out of luck.

Developers can compile the source code and run Chrome OS in a virtual machine to test Web app compatibility, Google said.

Analysts note the ratcheting up of the rivalry between Google and Microsoft with Chrome OS's release to developers today, but the new OS won't be available on new netbooks for another year -- and Microsoft seized upon that fact today.

"From what was shared, it appears to be in the early stages of development," a Microsoft spokeswoman said via e-mail.

"From our perspective, however, our customers are already voicing their approval of the way Windows 7 just works -- across the Web and on the desktop, and on all sizes and types of PCs -- purchasing twice as many units of Windows 7 as we've sold of any other operating system over a comparable time," the spokeswoman said.

Google is taking a long-term view, rethinking the OS and PC to achieve a better user experience, executives said today. For example, by dumping conventional BIOS-based boot-ups and only using solid-state drives, Chrome OS-based netbooks will be able to boot in 7 seconds, and run Web apps within another 3 seconds, the company said

That failed to impress Woody Hobbs, president and CEO of Phoenix Technologies Inc., a long-time BIOS software maker that has re-invented itself with a Linux-based instant-on OS called HyperSpace.

"Instant-on is about being able to access your Internet applications in one second. Seven seconds is too long," Hobbs said in an e-mail. "There is no such thing as 'cold boot' for today's mobile PCs such as netbooks and smartbooks. You should be able to use your netbook like you use your smartphone -- a press of a button and you are 'on'."

Mark Lee, CEO of DeviceVM Inc., said Google's favoritism towards its own browser and Web apps could rub some users the wrong way, especially those outside of the United States.

"In China, users prefer Baidu, not Google," Lee said. DeviceVM's Splashtop platform boots into Firefox within seconds and uses Yahoo or Baidu as default search engines instead of Google.

He expects Splashtop to have been shipped on 100 million netbooks and other PCs by the end of next year, when the first Chrome OS netbooks are due to arrive.

Tariq Krim, founder of Linux netbook OS maker, Jolicloud, said Chrome OS's 100% Web orientation -- users won't be able to install applications locally, though they may be able to run some of the Web apps offline using HTML 5 technology -- is premature.

"Native apps aren't dead yet," Krim said. "I love VLC [media player], I love Skype, I love using on the airplane when I don't have Wi-Fi access."

Other rivals said they welcomed Chrome OS. Jim Zemlin, executive director of The Linux Foundation, said, "What's good for Chrome is good for Moblin, and what's good for Moblin is good for Chrome."

The Linux Foundation oversees the Moblin netbook OS, created originally by Intel Corp., as well as the Linux kernel itself. "Many of the technologies present in Chrome originated in the Moblin Project. For example, Moblin pioneered fast boot technology," Zemlin said by e-mail.

But not everyone will benefit, he said. "The real loser today is Microsoft. Shared development accelerates time to market and innovation, bringing better products to consumers and better returns to companies."

Canonical Ltd., maker of the popular Ubuntu Linux, revealed today that it has been contributing engineers and developers to Chrome OS.

Canonical said it is unafraid of potential cannibalization. "While the two operating systems share some core components, Google Chrome OS will provide a very different experience to Ubuntu," wrote Chris Kenyon, Canonical's vice-president for OEM services.

"Ubuntu will continue to be a general-purpose OS running both Web and native applications such as OpenOffice and will not require specialized hardware," he said.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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