Google Chrome OS: A lot to do about Nothing

Google is known for doing many things right. Despite giving them a hard time over the years, it’s undeniable that my life still revolves, in a very real way, around Google products. I use Gmail not only for, er, Gmail but I use Google Apps to run all my email services including my public aaron@technosailor.com email.

Likewise, my analytics for this and other sites is Google Analytics (for those scared by big words, analytics is how I measure traffic and visitor interaction on the site). This blog, which is powered by WordPress, implements Google Gears to speed up transactions on the backend and Gears is used also to provide offline support to Google apps I run.

Google Search probably will never be replaced by Bing in my world.

My BlackBerry has a Gmail app and Google Maps, both of which I find to be imperative. Likewise, I use Google Talk for IM and I have apps for that on both my BlackBerry as well as my iPod Touch (The Jesus phone without the Great Satan called AT&T).

In other words, try as I might, I can’t not love Google for so many things.

Yet… I just can’t get excited about the announcement in recent days that Google is coming out with a new operating system, expected in 2010, that will be based on it’s Google Chrome browser (which I don’t use because it’s Windows only).
google-chrome-logo
For all that Google has done right, they completely just insulted us and most of us haven’t even figured it out yet. We’re all caught up in Shiny Object Syndrome, the likes of which are similar to Applegasms surrounding a new “Our Father who Art in Cupertino” product launch. We’re just not thinking straight.

Here’s why.

Google Chrome is a Browser. While it’s a powerful browser, it is simply a browser. It cannot run applications. It cannot mangle CPU cycles, assign process IDs to other applications, or control memory allocation for an entire computer. It’s not built that way. It’s built to be a browser.

The evidence that Google knows this (and Fake Steve Jobs does a nice job of pointing out why Operating Systems take 20 years to build right) is that it plans to use a Linux kernel. There you have it. A Linux kernel.

Ah ha, you might say. Linux has been proven to be an exceptional embedded operating system over the years, and with that, I’ll agree with you. It makes perfect sense why Google would build their new operating system on Linux. It’s proven its ability over the years to be an operating system for many devices, computer and non-computer alike. Why change now. God, those kids are smart over at Google.

Here’s the thing… All of the technology pundits, and Google themselves, are calling it a new operating system… when it’s far from it.

In fact, Google should be calling it a new Desktop Manager similar to KDE, Gnome or, heck, even the desktop manager app that’s built on Open BSD for the Mac OS X software. The operating system is Linux. For what it’s worth, Mac OS X should probably be called a Desktop Manager software too because it’s built on BSD, a Unix variant.

There is nothing about an upcoming Google Chrome OS that can operate a system. Not within a year. That’s why they are using Linux.

I love Google, but folks need to step back and be a little objective. I mean, just a little.

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Google Shiny is Not as Hot as You would Think

Much has been said about Google Chrome Shiny this week. Google stormed the internet by announcing that they too had a browser that web users could be proud of. They claimed the best of all browsers while slipping in some legal language into the EULA that revoked privacy of user browsing data while using the product. That was quickly changed when their bluff was called.

Regardless, Shiny has created quite a buzz with people like Gabe Rivera, the founder of Techmeme, claiming a 14% market share of all Techmeme readers using Shiny. That may be the most dramatic number I’ve seen, but certainly folks have been bandying around their numbers as if this was a huge coup de grace.

Let me remind you of what Brad Feld said in 2006: The first 25k users are irrelevant. (Disclosure: Brad is an investor in Lijit)

Got that? Irrelevant.

They are all kicking tires. There is nothing “new” here, as far as I can tell, and anything Google is greeted with a bunch of tire kickers early on. People want to get in, test things out, see how it works and then decide on what works for them.

You’ll see another surge in market share when Shiny becomes available to the Mac, and those users will be irrelevant as well.

That is not to say that Google cannot command a noticeable market share, but there are big hurdles to overcome:

  1. The browser market is saturated already: IE7/8, Firefox 2/3, Safari, Opera, to name only a few
  2. Internet Explorer, Safari and, well, Konqueror maybe are the only gifts that keep on giving. These are the browsers that are bundled with the Operating Systems and it is the only way to ensure market share. Google needs an OS in widespread adoption to compete on this level
  3. Google says they are innovating, but there is nothing innovative about the browser. It is built on Webkit. That is, it’s Safari.
  4. Google privacy concerns will continue to keep hawks like myself away.

The real measure of success is not going to be today or tomorrow. It’s going to be in six months. After the tire kickers run their test drives and uninstall from their systems. I’m guessing they can command a solid 2% market share by June of 2008. No better than that though. It will always be a niche browser.

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