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Will Dell Dump Windows for Google's Chrome OS?

Those of you who think that PCs are on their way out might want to think again. IDC says that PC sales will grow 20 percent this year, meaning that Microsoft's Windows cash cow should keep mooing and grazing for quite a while to come.

Unless Dell starts herding it toward the slaughterhouse. The Texas PC maker, not the powerhouse it once was but certainly still relevant, is talking to Google about running the Chrome operating system on its laptops -- rather than Windows, maybe. Now, this story hasn't gotten all that much play yet, but we at RCPU think that it could end up being a pretty big deal.

Everything's a bit sketchy right now -- all we know is that Dell is in talks with Google. We don't know how this will play out, whether Dell plans to ditch Windows or exactly which devices it might ship with Chrome OS installed. What we do know, though, is that Dell is apparently looking at running Chrome on laptops and possibly on its Streak mini-tablet, which is supposed to debut in the U.S. in July.

Why should partners care about this? Well, for one, a major PC manufacturer pulling away from Windows would represent a massive shift in the OS landscape. It would also signal a potential enterprise move away from Windows, which could threaten the services and applications a lot of partners provide.

Beyond that, Windows and Office are Microsoft's money products. They keep the wheels turning in Redmond. A big revenue hit in one of those areas -- like the one Microsoft experienced at the depth of the Vista debacle -- could have serious consequences for Microsoft, and therefore for partners, financially.

Still, it's really hard to imagine a PC maker just dumping Windows. It's so familiar and ubiquitous that consumers and enterprises (especially enterprises) are highly unlikely to just dump it cold turkey. Besides, it works with everything else in the Microsoft infrastructure, whereas Chrome OS is a bit of an unknown quantity in that sense. We can imagine Dell offering Chrome as an option, but not as the go-to OS for its PCs. And we can't imagine all that many customers buying into Chrome -- for now.

Microsoft, though, has finally had an enemy breach its most secure market-share perimeter. If Dell does start offering Google OS, we'll have to see whether it plays out better than, say, Linux-based machines have for PC manufacturers. And we'll also get a sense for just how strong Windows 7 and the Microsoft franchise really are.

Would you buy a PC with Chrome OS on it? Would you sell one? Send your thoughts to lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on June 21, 2010 at 11:56 AM


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