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Google Challenging Windows?

A recent announcement from Google seems to be stepping all over what used to be considered sacred ground for Microsoft. On Tuesday, Google announced "Google Chrome OS," a new Linux-based OS to be publicly launched in the second half of next year. Chrome OS will run on netbooks, as well as desktops.

So far, Linux-based OSes haven't made much of a dent in Microsoft's OS market share. Linux holds just 0.6 percent of the worldwide OS market, according to StatCounter. In contrast, XP holds 68 percent of that share, while Vista follows at 22 percent. Mac OS X has a toehold with 4 percent.

Will Chrome OS be any different than other Linux OSes when it comes to battling Windows, which meets the legal definition of a monopoly? After all, Linux was the OS of choice when netbooks first appeared. Now, Microsoft officials crow about a 90 percent attach rate of XP on netbooks and claim that any Windows 7 edition will be capable of running on a netbook.

Still, Google's announcement suggests that things might be different this time. Google is promising security from malware and no constant updates. There's also a big incentive offered for developers: You write for the browser OS and run the application anywhere. ("For application developers, the Web is the platform," Google's blog states.) The appeal to developers is straight from Microsoft's playbook. Does Google have the clout such that application developers will write more for Chrome OS than for Windows?

Much remains to be seen. And meanwhile, Microsoft has a research project called Gazelle that treats the browser more like an OS. What's going on here? Will the browser become the OS of the future? Tell Doug where this is going at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Kurt Mackie on July 08, 2009 at 11:53 AM


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