Rumor: Google Greasing Chrome OS for Launch
Chrome, Google’s planned operating system, is just about ready to hit the market, according to reports. The OS, which shares a name with Google’s Web browser, was announced last July. It will be based on the Linux kernel and may become a significant rival to Windows 7 in the netbook computer space.
Launching the OS as soon as possible makes sense, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. “I would expect the Chrome OS will show up shortly because they need the ecosystem ready by the end of 2010,” he told TechNewsWorld.
That ecosystem consists of products from Chrome OS project partners, including Lenovo, Acer, Asus, HP, Toshiba and Qualcomm.
“It appears that Google’s getting ready to finally put some muscle behind its Chrome OS bluster,” Al Hilwa, program director of application development software at IDC, told TechNewsWorld. However, he reckons this is more hype than anything else.
“I get the sense that Google’s trying to leverage the excitement around Windows 7 and get a bit of a ‘me too’ buzz,” Hilwa explained. “Leaking out that it will have some alpha bits for the Chrome OS in a week is really a weak response to Windows 7.”
Google did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
The Chrome OS Project
Google announced plans for the Chrome OS project in July. This caused a degree of confusion in the field, as Google already touted Android as an OS for both smartphones and small computers. The use of the same name for its browser and OS only worked to raise eyebrows even further.
Blame Google’s lack of marketing expertise for doubling up on the Chrome name, Enderle said. “Google has showcased a massive weakness in marketing and branding, and using the same name for both the OS and the browser is a reflection of that,” he pointed out. “Both are largely based on the Chrome browser, but they should have never had the same name.” This mistake will be an expensive one, Enderle predicted.
The Chrome OS is a fast, lightweight operating system that will be open sourced, Google said in announcing the project. It will sit on top of a Linux kernel and will use a new windowing system. The Web will be its application development platform.
Meanwhile, Google is extending the Chrome browser to the Mac OS X platform, and an early developer channel version is now available. The Mac beta will be released in December, according to a blog post by Nick Baum, a Chrome product manager.
Where Are the Partners?
The silence from Google’s Chrome OS project partners such as HP and Acer has been deafening. Why aren’t they rushing to announce netbooks running the Chrome OS?
Perhaps they’re trying to leverage their deals with Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) over Windows 7, IDC’s Hilwa pointed out. “I suspect that OEMs are in constant negotiation with Microsoft about saving an extra penny on a Windows image,” he said.
The advent of Windows 7 may have put pressure on Linux netbooks, which have not been very well received by consumers, Hilwa said. “It could be that Chrome OS will rekindle excitement around a version of Linux in the future, but Google has its work cut out for it,” he explained. “If Google delivers something differentiated and polished, there will be genuine OEM interest in trying a Linux netbook again.”
That doesn’t mean OEMs are turning their backs on the Chrome OS. Lenovo and Acer plan to launch netbooks that will run the Chrome OS, according to the blog Shanzai.
Lenovo has already developed a smartbook that runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon chip, company spokesperson Kristy Fair told TechNewsWorld. The device will be announced at the Consumer Electronic Show, to be held in Las Vegas in January, she said. However, she declined to discuss the operating system that it will used.
OS and Browser Soup
Google has been vigorously stirring the pot in recent weeks, first with the announcement of a new programming language, then with its Chrome OS news.
Now we have possible leaks about the Chrome OS. Just what is Google trying to achieve?
“The dabbling in languages seems like a collection of side projects at the periphery of what’s important at Google, namely to make money through advertising by keeping eyeballs on its properties,” IDC’s Hilwa said.
That dabbling might be more a symptom of disorientation than get-up-and-go, Enderle contended. “I think they have a huge problem of focus — they’re showcasing an inability to stage products and are starting to compete with themselves heavily,” he explained. “This market likes simplicity, and Google is showing an inability to see that.”