Google Chrome Announcement: Netbook Likely. What About Tablets?


Update: Read our report about the event, in which Google (NSDQ: GOOG) launched a Chrome app store, here. Original post: At a time when everyone is expecting the release of the latest Android update, codenamed Gingerbread, to be announced, Google is planning another announcement for tomorrow, December 7, around Chrome, its own web browser being developed into a full-fledged operating system. What will it mean to the world of mobile?

Common consensus so far has it that the “exciting news” planned by the Chrome team will be related to the release of a netbook, developed by a third party and branded by Google, similar to its Nexus One strategy.

Chrome OS will put cloud computing at its centre, and these early devices – if what we’ve been hearing is true – are likely an extension of CEO Eric Schmidt’s words from a couple of weeks ago at the Web 2.0 Summit, where he indicated that Chrome OS is really intended for clamshell devices with keyboards, with Android is meant for devices with touchscreens like smartphones and tablets.

This seems like a clear enough strategy – although given that both operating systems are open source, they could end up getting used in ways not originally intended.

Given Chrome’s emphasis on cloud architecture, if Chrome did find its way into mobile devices, it would mean a step change away from how smartphones have been developing over the last couple of years.

Led by Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), smartphones have been designed around the concept of having apps downloaded to devices, to anchor whatever content the user decides to consume on the device. And although a lot has been made about how the mobile web will ultimately play a bigger role than apps, this has yet to be played out in how people use these devices, and how they’re marketed to the general public.

Apple has been relatively cagey on its own position on cloud-based content: when the company stirred up attention in November for a big iTunes announcement, people speculated on whether this would be the long-anticipated launch of cloud-based music.

When the news turned out to be about The Beatles finally landing in the iTunes catalog, suddenly it seemed like Apple was no closer to conceiving about cloud-based content than it ever before.

But in the meantime, we’re seeing an increasing number of other mobile content services moving into the cloud – take for example Google’s ebookstore launched today, with apps for Android and Apple devices ready to let users read on whatever device they might have to hand.

MeeGo, the Nokia/Intel (NSDQ: INTC) OS that will be used in Nokia’s “superphones” in the future – with some pictures of what appear to be early devices leaked from Russia last week – is making stronger use of cloud-based services in its architecture, in particular for consuming media content.

If a competitors like Nokia (NYSE: NOK) and Google were to start pushing more content and functions into the cloud – say on MeeGo- and Chrome-based devices – would this potentially kick-start others into exploring more cloud-based content for mobile devices, too?

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