Blog Post

Microsoft's Wall of Fear Over Chrome OS? Not

In the wake of Google’s (s goog) big announcement last week on Chrome OS, its netbook-focused operating system due to launch in late 2010, speculation is building as to what sort of response it may draw from the competition, especially Microsoft (s msft). Given that Google’s idea is to put a browser-centric look and architecture at the heart of its cloud-focused operating system, PC World thinks Redmond could respond with a so-called “Internet Explorer OS.” Meanwhile, InfoWorld imagines a scenario in which Microsoft conducts a full-frontal attack that starts with classifying Chrome OS as “desktop Linux” (Canonical, which makes the Linux distribution Ubuntu, has been helping Chrome OS take shape). In fact, Microsoft is unlikely to go on the attack at all.

First of all, Chrome OS is aimed solely at the netbook market, and it won’t arrive until late 2010, at which point Windows 7’s hold on the netbook market will have been building for a year. Google’s operating system, remember, is not targeting the desktop and server systems that represent the lion’s share part of Windows’ installed base.

Second, Microsoft is much less inclined to blast Linux and all things Linux-based than it used to be. Sure it has done so in the past, with Steve Ballmer even going so far as calling Linux “a cancer.” There are even those who produce alleged evidence that Microsoft trains Best Buy employees to trash Linux. But Linux doesn’t have enough market share for Microsoft to launch continuing, broad-based attacks on it, nor is it in the company’s best interest to do so. After all, if Microsoft can’t point to competitors to its operating systems, it risks getting back in trouble with the Department of Justice. In fact, Microsoft recently donated significant amounts of driver code to the Linux community — something it would never have done years ago.

Finally, as I wrote recently, Google is taking a number of large gambles with Chrome OS. It will work only with data in the cloud, for example, which may not be flexible enough for many users. Before we envision Microsoft fearing Google’s narrowcasted and possibly quite inflexible OS, Google has to prove that it can get an operating system aimed at computers (and not mobile phones) right — and support it well.  Those are tall orders, as Microsoft (and Apple) would be the first to point out.

20 Responses to “Microsoft's Wall of Fear Over Chrome OS? Not”

  1. Beaton N.

    Google is providing us with the future, which we do not necessarily want right now. Whether it succeeds or not, Google probably wont mind, as long as it lets people know its possibly to live on the cloud.

    On the other hand, this new OS will make Microsoft a winner, only if MS recognizes the need to integrate the cloud into the OS. No one wants to have everything in the cloud, some people want more control over their data, with the cloud acting as a back up.

    Microsoft will act, and it will act by making some or all of the functionality of Chrome OS into Windows and yet retaining the same interface and underpinnings that everyone is familiar with. Examples in Windows will include having drives under My computer that are on the cloud making it easy to save a document for example straight to the cloud.

    The good thing about all this is that the consumer gains, so let the games begin. Whoever wins, seriously no one cares

  2. Gerard B.

    If G (via Android/ChromeOS) can cause M$ to lower WiMob or W7 asp (average selling price) by $5..$50/unit they win. M$ is dependent on desktop OS and desktop applications for lifeblood. Any initiative which constrains (revenue or technical) initiatives from Redmond is a Google win.

    M$ are walking (nay, running) into a deadly trap.

    The only viable strategy (and high risk) for M$ today is to BUY Facebook and Yahoo (irrespective of the price). Now they are in a position to provide Google with the same body blows on its home turf (search/advertising) as G is doing to it in OS/Applications.

    Likely already too late but it would be the closest to a ‘nuclear deterrent’ that Redmond could get to GOOGs WMDs.

  3. In business at the Speed of Thought, Bill Gates said that the Internet was not a big concern for them, 5th or 6th on their list. And they got caught with their pants down. As a result, Microsoft has never been able to catch up all the valuable research Google did in the early days. If they are smart enough to look past Windows 7, they might realize that in the next 10 years, Internet applications may be the “in” thing, with applications on the web being able to communicate seamlessly with a minimal desktop system that does little more than save some data to the harddrive. Google has the financial stamina to wait for that to happen, just as in the early days Microsoft was able to submit its MS-DOS OS and simply wait for the foreseen computer revolution to take it to the heights it now enjoys. And in those days, IBM and others felt that the PC would never be a threat to the mainframe market. The bulky desktop system of today could be the bulky mainframe system of yesteryear. Saying Windows 7 will have a foothold by the time Google OS comes out is like saying Vista will sell like hotcakes. If Microsoft is smart, they will start planning now.

  4. Modnarmai

    Microsoft had to release the driver code. They were in violation of copyright law. They had used GLP code in the drivers. The PR campaign was just to make it look good. It seems like some people bought into the idea MS was being nice. If they had not been caught they would not have released the drivers.

  5. I’d like to try the Chrome OS on my home machine at some point. My computer habits would mesh nicely with what I’m hearing about Chrome, and probably so would millions of users.

  6. Grossly underreashed post, disappointing.

    Use the raw data from Q3 where dozens of handset makers and telco abandon Windows Mobile for Android. Decisions makers, accounting departments, stock holders all see the tremendous savings to be had by eliminating Microsoft’s outrageous licensing fees ( Android has none at all ).

    Rudimentary to see the exact same thing happen with not only flyweight netbooks, but creeping up onto more traditional notebooks.

    Plus, Chrome OS is so efficient it leads to smaller batteries, less RAM, smaller hard drive size – further lower production costs.

    While this post may be written to sooth the ulcers of Redmond Washington ( “There, there, everythings OK…” ) the hard data in the mobile space shows Microsoft should most definitely worry.

    HTC, Sony Ericsson and Motorloa are following their exit strategies, distancing themselves for Windows Mobile licensing overhead costs…Dell, Acer, Sony, Toshiba accounting departments all paying close attention to that ( stock holders too ).

    • Todd

      I think your assertions about ChromeOS and what it will lead to, are optimistic, considering how little do we know of this OS, especially in a working environment.

      As to Windows Mobile, well Microsoft hasn’t done itself any favor by letting the platform rot away after a good start.

      As I wrote earlier, Android is my horse in this race.

  7. I don’t think Microsoft needs to fear Chrome OS. Media is giving unnecessary hype to Chrome OS. Windows will hold the majority of OS market share. No one is going to use Google’s OS due to privacy issues. Remember Google has a habit to sneak through mails etc. I don’t trust Google with my PC.

    • Do you think people stopped using gmail, search engines, YouTube and other programs offered by Google because of your concern about targeted advertisement. I do not mind the targeted advertisement as it is scanned and acted upon by dumb robots.

  8. Google has no reason to rattle MS with a full disclosure of its long-term intentions which would surely cause an all out response. It’s taking a leaf out of the Redmond’s old chicanery book by positing its OS as a very limited one (which it will in the beginning). But once it takes off, the big G itself and/or the army of Linux coders will pour out a torrent of addons that will make Chrome OS work like a desktop OS.
    That’s exactly what MS has been doing, such as positioning its presentation products as Adobe Photoshop ‘companion’ programs.

  9. @gbp–you’re right that the performance, price point and some of the features seem attractive, but there is no desktop focus at all for the operating system–at least not yet. It’s squarely aimed at netbooks, somewhat narrowcasted in that regard.


    • There is desktop focus , but its a different desktop that google is envisioning. Its a desktop where most of the data is in the cloud. You have browser / widgets to access it.
      It is not going to be as powerful as windows at first , but surely will gain some traction. Customers who spend 90% of their time browsing the internet and emailing might like this thing.

      Besides , I have a serious suspicion that the battery on their laptop / netbook is going to be a killer one i.e. lasting a whole day.

      Now if you were to ask a question,
      would I buy a netbook / laptop for 200 dollars , that
      lets me browse the internet, email, create documents , faster and battery lasting a whole day
      The answer is “YES”.

      But like OM mentioned in the comments , there are many unknowns in the whole thing. I am sure watching this one.
      I might buy one if its in the 200 dollar range.

  10. “Google’s operating system, remember, is not targeting the desktop and server systems that represent the lion’s share part of Windows’ installed base.”

    Agree to the server part. But disagree to the Desktop part.Google is redefining the “DESKTOP” computer.
    Its too early to say it will succeed. But given the performance, price point and features ( email, documents) of the Chrome, they might get a response from Microsoft i.e. IExplore OS

    • GBP

      I think Microsoft should be smart and buy a network operating environment especially for the netbooks. I know one of their former employees started a company based in Sweden which has a solution — that looks and behaves like Windows but isn’t really Windows. If they could push that instead of discounting their own OS, Microsoft will have a credible way to counter attrack Chrome OS

      • Actually, I believe that Chrome is a device play. Call it a netbook now, but a tablet or a smart phone are equivalent. There has already been discussion of a merger with Android.

        These are two plays for market relevance. Chrome is built from the perspective that one will access a cloud from a device directly with no intermediaries. Desktop OSes implicitly rely upon servers controlled by people and companies. They can all coexist, but Microsoft has to provide a good rationale for relying upon such services in the future.

        Chrome, like Apple can pick up 10% and be really very happy. It can provide a browser for accessing such services on a workstation providing an alternate ecosystem. But, as you are well aware Microsoft has never really been a cost effective alternative for small businesses. They require more refined cloud services that require less support and upfront investment.

        Should Microsoft respond? Probably not… But, should they provide technologies, such as Office online or build a browser that utilizes local and remote services? I am using Google apps, but I miss Excel! The days of people paying $500 bucks for a suite are gone though outside of the corporate world.

      • Yup,
        That’s the smart way.
        From a UI perspective it should be different from the Windows UI.
        Microsoft doesn’t want to give the impression that it is another variant of Windows.
        They should jump on this opportunity and dilute the impact of Chrome. But I won’t hold my breath on Microsoft, lately they have become Microslowsoft or Microslowft :).
        I guess they are now deep into creating the Mobile7. Matching google requires speed of execution.

    • Nicholas

      You might be right about the device play but the way I see it (not speaking for others) Android makes more sense because most of the devices are going to be an outgrowth of smartphones and not netbooks. call me a mobile purist, but tiny laptops don’t excite me. The phone, on the other hand is a pretty nifty way to think about everything.

      • Mobile is the future. Devices or device like technologies — distilled applications or widgets — are going to increasingly assert themselves.

        By the way, I have some feedback on the site. Is there a comment section. It can be a bit tough on the readability on smaller screens such as my Air. Thanks.