An Operating System for a Web-based World?


168033-google_chrome_series_originalConsidering that the general domain for this blog, as its name implies, is the evolution of the enterprise IT organization towards the year 2017 (10 years from when I started this blog), Google‘s announcement of its planned Chrome OS is, I believe, a very big deal – or, at least, will prove to be over the next 3 to 5 years.

Most of my consulting clients have a love/hate relationship with Microsoft in general, and Windows in particular.  Microsoft takes an increasingly significant bite out of the IT budget, and the cost of resources needed to keep PC‘s running and secure is a substantial burden on enterprise IT organizations – one they they get little to no credit for.  (As I’ve noted before, IT infrastructure activities such as keeping PC’s running are only visible when they fail!)

Overshooting User Requirements

Clayton Christensen, in his classic book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail” points out that over time, through a successive series of minor innovations, products tend to overshoot a their performance needs beyond which the typical user can absorb.  (How much of Windows do you really need and use?  How many features of MS Office go unused by all but the hardiest of users?)  This overshooting of product capabilities leaves great openings for new market entrants to come in well below current performance thresholds with products that fully meet the needs of the typical user, without the encumbrances of the bells and whistles – often derisively referred to as “bloatware.”  That is the play being made successfully today with Netbooks.  That is also the play, I believe, Google made previously with Google Apps, and is now making with Chrome OS.  But in the latter case, its not just a stripped down OS (with the speed and simplicity benefits that brings), but an OS designed from the outset for a Web-based universe.

Inevitably, not everyone believes Chrome OS will be a slam dunk for Google.  (See for example, David Coursey’s Tech Inciter blog at PC World – Five Reasons Google Chrome OS Will Fail.)  I personally don’t buy David’s arguments – they mostly seem to be relative to today’s marketplace.   I believe the enterprise market will be more than ready for such an innovation by the time it really hits the marketplace, and that Google Chrome OS represents the first real threat to Microsoft hegemony over the desktop.  It’s also interesting to note that in the same week Google made this announcement, they also removed the “beta” designation from Google Mail (a beta that was 5 years in the making!)

What do you think?  Are you likely to switch from Windows if Chrome OS delivers against its promises?

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7 thoughts on “An Operating System for a Web-based World?

  1. Vaughan,

    Am I likely to switch from Windows if Chrome OS delivers against its promises?

    … as fast as I can blink.

    To what degree I’m not sure, but I have already moved to Leopard for home computing, and it’s only a matter of time until a reasonable alternative to Windows replaces Microsoft for my business needs.

    My last several experiences with Microsoft products have left me wanting. Vista has left a bad taste in my mouth to the point where I have little enthusiasm for any M$FT OS in the future. My business needs are different than most, but for me a sleek operating system tuned to the cloud sounds great.

    …of course Microsoft has Gazelle, but that’s is a subject for another post.

    Russ

    Reply
  2. I think that the result will both push, and require the infrastructure to change (as it currently is)

    This is going back to the ‘networkis the computer’

    ‘cloud’ based (internal, external or hybrid) will probably need to be realized for it to really take hold.

    The netbook idea is working – as long as pretty much everything you do is on-line.

    For enterprises running line of business software – that may take a while

    Reply
    • Thanks, Elliot – all good points, as ever. These things are all connected in complex and perhaps some unpredictable ways. As you note, this will both need the infrastructure to change, and will accelerate and shape the changes already under way. The netbook (current iteration of the “zero/very thin client” concept) similarly makes a new web-based OC make sense, and, it’s popularity will accelerate demand for such OS’s.

      As for your final comment, I wonder if this whole Web 2.0 movement (I realize I’m taking some liberties by extending a conversation about Chrome OS to one about Web 2.0!) isn’t going to lead to a widening gap between the ones who ‘carpe diem’ versus those who are slow to move from the current mainstream model. The infamous May 2003 Nicholas Carr HBR article “IT Doesn’t Matter” had some important truth in it – much of the IT focus for the last 15-20 years has been trying to achieve competitive parity with IT. I’d argue nearly all the spending on ERPs over that period was to “catch up” with the industry leaders in terms of core business performance.

      So I hope some leaders will move more quickly and aggressively, and be handsomely rewarded for it.

      Reply
  3. Yes, Mr. Carr has a lot of truth, and the reason I used the word ‘push’ – to add another reference – is that should Chrome succeed as a Web OS, that could provide the tipping point that accelerates adoption.

    Reply
  4. Vaughan,
    Personally, I would wager a sizable sum (and will, if I can figure out where to place the bet) that something like Google Chrome will be a dramatic success . Why? Because – and you made the point in your post – CIOs want it to.
    What sane CIO would not jump at the chance to dramatically reduce their “headache per desktop” metric and find themselves in stronger negotiating position with Microsoft?
    ———
    The value of this kind of shift is already generating a great deal of interest among CIOs in massive enterprises like the US Federal government. Google would be wise to look at a Public Private Partnership model to complement the open source development of their new OS. With literally hundreds of thousands of seats at stake, taking advantage of the Federal IT complex would engage some of the best minds in the public and the private sector to accelerate adoption.
    ———-
    The “overshooting” problem is particularly relevant in the Federal government. Microsoft has had its sales force has been primarily focused through their incentive plans on enterprise license sales, so they have not fully exploited their position to embed Microsoft technologies in the solutions that run government – but, everyone can do really nice PowerPoints. This creates an interesting opening for anyone that can just make the ordinary desktop work better at lower cost in a large enterprise environment.

    Brad

    Reply
    • Great comments, thanks Brad. I was at a conference this week with about 50 IT and HR Execs – and I think your bet would be safe. Momentum is clearly gathering!

      Reply

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