Comeback Kids: Google Chrome OS – The Cloud and Open Source Swan Song

Google Chrome OS, the Open Source Cloud based Operatng  System said to be the ultimate challenger to Microsoft Windows on Netbooks that was based on Google’s foray into the browser wars, was not a failure in the strictest sense, as ironically, it is yet to even make a debut, thus it cannot said to have failed, having not been rejected by anyone. It is included in my article series, as due to repeated promises of its launch and yet lack of failure to appear, one is left to ponder if this is some prank by Google on the Netizens, already used to Cloud Computing in the form of applications such as Google Mail (Gmail) and Google Docs, two excellent products thus far. Google Chrome, which was debut in June 2010 in more a case, as mentioned before, of a product that came designed to be ported with a particular technology that is now slowly going out of style, the Netbook.

This is thanks to the emergence of the Apple iPad and its would-be crew of assassins, projected to sell nearly twenty eight million (28,000,000) Tablets, effectively killing off the Netbook, which may soon be relegated to the hallowed halls of the Smithsonian. It is even allegedly killing off the PC. According to the analysts at Gartner, who had projected a growth [increase] of 17.9% for PC over the previous year 2009 for the year 2010 in September 2010 Report, representing a projection of approximately three hundred and fifty two million four hundred thousand (352.4) PC’s being shipped by Technology companies. The problem is that now Gartner has downgraded this projection to 14.3%, effectively a decrease or slowing down of growth of about 3.6%. Gartner’s 2011 projections are just as bad, with growth down from 18.1% to 15.9% a decrease of 2.2%, significant when such numbers result in decrease in shipments to four hundred and nine million (409) million PC’s. George Shiffer, an analyst at Gartner in his own words sum it up best, quote: “PCs are still seen as necessities, but the PC industry’s inability to significantly innovate and its over reliance on a business model predicated on driving volume through price declines are finally impacting the industry’s ability to induce new replacement cycles. As the PC market slows, vendors that differentiate themselves through services and technology innovation rather than unit volume and price will dictate the future. Even then, leading vendors will be challenged to keep PCs from losing the device ‘limelight’ to more innovative products that offer better dedicated compute capabilities”.

Already, Apple controls 95% of the Tablet market, if the analyst Strategy Analysts is to be believed. Throw in the reduced demand for Netbooks and Laptops as stated by computer make Micron and the retail demand drop by 50% reported by Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn, with his fellow competitors Target and possibly Wal-Mart in the retail business stocking up on Tablets for what is expected to be a Tablet filled Christmas. Competitors of Apple have been announcing their versions of a Tablet, mainly running Google Android, the popular smart phone Operating System as in the case of the Samsung Galaxy Tablet as evident in my article on the subject entitled “Samsung Galaxy – Apple iPad’s contender for the Christmas”. This despite Google’s insistence that Android 2.2 OS, codenamed Froyo not being optimized to run on Tablets; Android 2.3, codenamed Gingerbread and Android 3.0 codenamed Honeycomb, may be optimized for Tablet use, hence the long pause as designers await CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in January 2011 to debut their Tablets.

Tablet makers, such as Hewlett Packard with their Indy 500 inspired soon-to-be-a-hit HP Slate 500 with its optional JBL Dock Speakers, are also beginning to jump on the Windows 7 bandwagon. This despite Windows 7 also not being optimized for a touch interface either, hoping also to capitalize on Window’s Enterprise centric roots and provide a Tablet for Business unwilling to commit to the Apple iPad and its current lack of printing options. This is an area that is a traditional stronghold of Microsoft that the youth oriented Apple iPad has yet to breach. Google, anxious to have its Chrome OS which is already optimized for Cloud computing be adopted by Tablet makers, is porting the possible usage of Chrome OS not only on this emerging Tablet form factor, but also possibly on smart books, which are effectively Netbooks with a smaller, ultra-portable, ultra-thin form factor and running on SSD (Solid State Drives). Introducing the smart book!

Effectively these devices would be competitors to another emerging game changer, namely the Apple MacBook Air, which sports an affordable US$999 price after direct purchase at an Apple Store as well as a longer battery life of up to five (5hrs) hours on full video playback and thirty (30) days standby time. Google CEO Eric Schmidt has confirmed as much recently in an interview with EnGadget at Web 2.0 in November 2010 where he confirmed that Chrome OS was aimed at Netbooks and Laptops and Android OS was being aimed at touch screen devices, smart phone and their ilk. Further confirmation of Google CEO Eric Schmidt words came with the confirmation of the launch of smart books [Netbooks using SSD’s] in November of 2010.

Since Google CEO Eric Schmidt made this statement, Netbooks and Laptops sporting Google Chrome are yet to ship and December 2010 is now upon us. It is becoming increasingly clear that devices running Google Chrome will not be shipping this Christmas; a 2011 debut, possibly during the 2011 CES (Computer Electronics Show) in Nevada is more likely. The promise that SSD’s hold to revive smart books is in the fact that Google Chrome is cheaper than Windows and the apps are effectively free is strong, being backed up on shielded servers, despite delays.

The reason for my rosy optimism? Google has scored what is effectively a victory for Cloud Computing by securing a contract with U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), a major Government contract for Google, to use its Cloud based Google Apps [Gmail and Google Docs], to provide email and document services. This is not surprising, as traditionally Server Administrators have supported Linux and Open Source, particularly because problems and fixes are more quickly and easily discovered and distributed, as opposed to Closed Ecosystem’s such as Microsoft. The fact that Google’s software deployment being done in partnership with Unisys, is significantly cheaper, is not lost on the US Government, looking to cut the cost of administration by using Open Source, which is license free both for deployment and distribution on separate machines. Although there is not mention of Google Chrome, speculation is rife that the transition to Google Chrome may also be in the works as well, thus truly a major achievement for Open Source for a OS based on a browser. Stay tuned for more as this story develops!

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Lindsworth is a Radio Frequency and Generator Maintenance Technician who has a knack for writing about his work, which is in the Telecoms Engineering Field. An inspired writer on themes as diverse as Autonomous Ants simulations, Power from Lightning and the current Tablet Wars.