Chrome: More Than A Browser – Less Than A Desktop

November 21, 2009

Chrome OS, Technology, Windows 7, Wireless

Take a look at the picture above.  What do you see? Here’s a quick summary:

  • That’s Windows 7 running on my system. Yeah, it’s the release candidate as I haven’t upgraded to the GA version – yet.
  • You see Tweetdeck. While I like other clients, I can’t quite swallow the Seesmic brew that includes Silverlight.
  • You also see a Chrome browser. I like a lot of things about the Chrome browser.  But oddly enough, I still have to use Firefox to edit my posts to WordPress.
  • While hidden by a few windows, you also see Windows Media Center.
  • For those who are looking carefully at the task bar, you see an icon for Eclipse.  I’m using that for my Android development environment.
  • Sun’s VirtualBox is running.  You see it running on the desktop.  And you see several operating systems images.
  • One of those operating systems is the Chrome OS.  And that VM is running.  In the image, you’ll see what looks like a Chrome browser.  There’s a tab for GMail and a tab for GCal.  You’ll also see the Start/Welcome tab.  There’s a pretty good chess game and there are a lot of web apps.

So what is Chrome? Is it a desktop? Nope.  Is it just a browser? Nope.  It IS a down-payment on Google’s gambit to move people from desktop apps to cloud/network services.  And it is a completely open framework for new innovation.

Will it win? Well, it won’t displace Windows on new system sales – at least, not yet.  Will it be the platform for netbooks? Maybe.  But they may be fighting against Android for that honor.

But unlike other desktop contenders, this offering is not designed for a head-to-head fight with Windows.  Unlike Safari and Mac OS X, this platform is not seeking to be another desktop in the fight.  Rather, it seeks to move the battlefield to an entirely new venue.  This is the same fight that Sun started with the NC (i.e., the “Network Computer”).  But Sun had no traction in the consumer marketplace.  And they saw meager penetration in the enterprise space.

But Chrome OS is the inheritor of a unique phenomenon; some of the best technologies are a redux of something that was already in existence.  MP3 players existed for quite some time before the iPod arrived.  The Apple iPod won because it captured the consumer imagination.  In the same way, Chrome OS is a redux of things we’ve seen before.  Can Google transform a moribund market for network computing?  I sure hope that they will.  But they will need a spark for that to happen.  In the mobile phone industry, I think that the Verizon Droid may be the spark needed for Android’s explosion into the market.

In a very strange way, Chrome OS’ real competitors maybe the netbooks and wireless platforms like Android.

-Roo

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