During Google’s (s goog) quarterly earnings call today, a number of analysts asked questions about the company’s new Chrome OS. The product is unique in that it’s generated a massive amount of hype and coverage without anyone having any idea what it will look like, when it will arrive, or what users will be able to do with it. Much like Google Wave, the company hopes it can tout the Chrome OS with words, rather than by having to actually show anything. One thing is for sure, Chrome OS won’t be making Google any money. Not directly, anyway.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt, responding to an analyst’s question about monetizing Chrome OS:
Because it’s open source, we do not plan to charge for it, in an open source form. There may be other ways we can make money from it. The core operating system, if you look at the blog post, we said it was an open source project and it should be available for anyone else to use. We do this with a lot of products. For example our Android product… There are many other pieces of technology that Google builds [that we don’t charge for].
The rough argument is we do things that are strategic because they get people to ultimately use the Internet in a clever and new way. We know that if they use the Internet more, they search more, watch more on YouTube, and we then know that our advertising [will reach them]. We do not require each and every project to be completely profitable or not profitable — we look at them in a strategic context: are they making the Web a better place? By making the web a better place, by getting more and more people online — especially on broadband connections — we have lot of data that says this results in very, very strong revenue growth from us because of targeted ads that we offer.
When asked for more concrete details on the Chrome OS, Schmidt had this to say:
What we talked about when we did the announcement a week ago was that, we are going to build an open source version of Chrome OS that would be available to the PC community a year from now. We are, in fact, talking to PC hardware manufacturers of both architectures, both ARM and Intel (s intc), to design products that are very, very exciting, that really fulfill the vision of cloud computing. Other aspects of our strategy are still to be worked out, based on feedback.
There will be a reference hardware spec with appropriate features and so forth. Our primary focus for that product will be speed — in particular speed of boot and speed of computation, and seamless use of all the web services that are the promise of cloud computing. Will the software be generally available for download? Will it run on existing hardware? Those things we will work out. Because it’s open source, we won’t have the kind of restrictions that other people have. It will be possible people to take it and do whatever they want to it; that’s kind of the beauty of the Chrome OS.
Here, let me sum that up for you: Open source! Very Exciting! Fulfill the vision of cloud computing! Open Source! Thanks so much Eric. Very enlightening. Everyone follow that? Google Chrome OS, when it gets here, whenever that is, will change everything.