Thursday, July 9, 2009

Google Chrome OS: A Paradigm Shift? Why Google Chrome OS Makes Sense

What is Google thinking of, when it decided to create the Google Chrome OS? Doubters and naysayers are abound in the blogosphere and twitterverse, questioning the viability of the Google Chrome OS.

We're missing the point if we were to compare Google Chrome OS to Windows or OS X. Rather than looking at Google Chrome OS as yet another standard OS, I would like to argue that Google Chrome OS is better understood, in Thomas Kuhn's words, as a paradigm shift, a game-changer, a disruptive technology. How so?

Let me use an analogy to explain what I mean. Traditional OSes, e.g., Windows, OS X and Linux are akin to your typical heavy-duty truck or SUV. Think of these OSes as the Chevy Silverado or Suburban of the OS world, designed to do everything under the sun from A to Z, hauling heavy stuff, transporting people, offroading, etc. Does your typical suburbanite ever use a heavy duty truck or SUV for offroading and hauling heavy stuff 365 days a year? Chances are, that suburbanite's daily use would be commuting to job, the local supermarket to pick up groceries and the mall. Think of the number of times you see a lone individual driving a huge SUV from home to work on the freeway. Perhaps a compact or subcompact car like a Mini or a Honda Fit would be more appropriate -- they are fun to drive, zippy, have excellent handling, and are great for daily commuting to work or the store.

In other words, Google Chrome OS is that Mini or Honda Fit of the OS world, great for the usual webcentric tasks, e.g., browsing web, checking e-mail, tweeting, IM, etc. Don't believe me? Here's what Chris Dawson recently wrote in his blog posting entitled Windows 7 is the same as Ubuntu:
I described how I’d installed the Windows 7 Release Candidate on my son’s computer for his take on the OS after living with Ubuntu 9.04 (and 8.10 before that) for a few months. It’s summer break, so he basically spends every waking moment when he’s not actually interacting face-to-face with friends on the computer. No better time to have a kid do some serious testing, right?

I asked him last night about his initial impressions of Windows 7 and, in typical teenage fashion, as he was bouncing between Meebo windows and browser tabs, he said it was “nice.” I managed to extract from him that his favorite feature was that he was able to use his Zune with it, something that had never worked terribly well with Ubuntu. Otherwise, he said, “Windows 7 is the same as Ubuntu; there just really isn’t anything different about them.”

Of course there isn’t. He lives in a web browser. The underlying OS is irrelevant. He has no need for Office 2007 and I expect his next portable music player will be platform independent (emphasis added).

In other words, Google Chrome OS will not replace the OS on enterprise machines requiring heavy firepower to run corporate software. Neither would they replace the OS on machines for gamers. Those specialized machines are like SUVs and trucks that are designed for specific heavy duty tasks. For Chris Dawson's son and millions like him, the OS is immaterial. What matters is the ability to get to, and interact with various web apps. And that is what the Google is designing its Chrome OS to do: ease of web access, speed, and simplicity.

Will Google succeed? I don't know but I'm eagerly awaiting the actual launch of Google Chrome OS. I won't be surprised that we will see dual-boot machines with Google Chrome OS for daily web tasks and Microsoft Windows 7 for heavy duty tasks. Or Live USB drives with Google Chrome OS. I suspect that Google Chrome OS will usher in things we never imagined the way that Apple iPhone has done to the smartphone.


See my other blog postings on Google Chrome OS.

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