The gauntlet? Thrown down. The line in the sand? Drawn. The end? Is near. True to numerous rumors over the last few years, Google announced today that it is developing an operating system, meaning it will join Windows, OS X and Ubuntu in the OS wars. It will be called Google OS Chrome (borrowing the name from Google's browser).
"...The operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web," said Sundar Pichai, VP Product Management at Google. Hmmm... think he's talking about Windows?
If Microsoft felt threatened about how much time people were spending in online apps versus their expensive (and bloated) desktop apps, they should be peeing themselves about now.
"We're designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. ...Most of the user experience takes place on the web. ...Users [w]on't have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work."
Think about it: what do you do on a computer?
- Search for things (browser, obviously)
- Email (browser)
- Social networking (browser)
- Listen to music (more and more it's the browser, thanks to sites like Pandora and Last.fm)
- Look at friends' pictures (browser)
- Word processing (possible in the browser via Google Docs and others, although not very popular...yet)
- Spreadsheets (see above)
- Cropping/editing photos (browser - have you checked out Photoshop.com?)
- Chat (available in the browser through Gmail or sites like Meebo.com)
So if we're spending all this time doing things online (for free), why pay Microsoft $500 to upgrade Windows and Office, hmmmmmmmm?
That's exactly the question Google hopes you'll ask yourself.
This also has the potential to (eventually) have an adverse affect on the hardware market. As more and more of what you do involves being online, how much do you care if Intel releases their new Core i7 processor Extreme Edition? Unless you're a gamer or doing processor-intensive work (video editing, AutoCAD which, really, could be done from a server somewhere if we had the bandwidth most of Europe enjoys) a lot of what you do on your desktop can be executed on a server in the middle of North Dakota.
Your computer can just be a browser. Period.
Of course, this is the idea behind netbooks which have proven quite popular (Sprint is even offering a netbook for 99 cents) and is where Google OS Chrome will first launch...just in time to make people wonder if they should pay for Windows 7.
UPDATE: In the words of Michael Arrington:
Don’t worry about those desktop apps you think you need. Office? Meh. You’ve got Zoho and Google Apps. You won’t miss office. Chrome plus Gears plus Google Wave plus HTML 5 and web platforms like Flash and Silverlight all combine into a single wonderful computing device. The Internet Is Everything. All the OS has to do is boot the damn computer, get me to a browser as fast as possible and then stay the hell out of the way.