Sooner Or Later Chrome OS Is Doomed


With Google trimming dead wood, the axe might fall on Chrome OS. Clint Boulton asks: is it doomed or just ahead of its time?

ReadWriteWeb’s Joe Brockmeier published a provacative post about Chrome Operating System Wednesday.

The premise? Google, which behind new-old CEO Larry Page has been trimming a lot of dark-matter projects, may want to clip Chrome OS now rather than invest any more money in it or the Chromebooks in the market.

Lack capabilities

The reason? People aren’t buying them, partly because they’re not as aggressively marketed as other Google products, but mostly because they lack the full-flavored capabilities of Windows PCs or Macs. And you need a Web connection to use them.

You just can’t run on-premise software on Chromebooks. Sure they boot up in 8 seconds, but they have little flash storage because they are all about Web apps. The great thing about PCs and Macs is people can do both local software and Web apps.

Chromebooks from Samsung and Acer debuted this past summer, but Digitimes believes these major PC vendors may have only sold 30,000 units since that time.

That may explain in part why Samsung and Acer have slashed Wi-Fi Chromebook prices to $299 in time for the holidays, from $429 (£274) and $349 (£223) respectively.

You can fault Google and its OEM partners for failing to market the notebooks well enough. To its credit, Google is trying to punch up interest.

The search engine is inviting potential customers to test Chromebooks at the Samsung Experience in New York City and has tapped Virgin America to let travellers on four different flight routes check out and use Samsung Series 5 Chromebooks paired with complimentary Wi-Fi access free for the duration of their flight.

Folks who fly Virgin America from San Francisco, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth or Boston can “check out” a Series 5 Chromebook from a so-called “Chrome Zone” near their departure gate.

Moreover,Chromebooks recently got a fresh log-in UI, so Google is doing its part. Its part just might not be big enough, though.

Ahead of its time

The problem with the Chromebook is that people can’t do enough with it out of the chute, and the clock has been ticking on the notebooks since their launch earlier this year.

I picked up the Cr-48 this time last year and a Series 5 this past summer. I enjoy them, but not so much that I’d rather use them than this Dell Latitude Windows 7 notebook I typed this on, or even my Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 to do Web surfing or blogging.

I can Skype on my Latitude, and do a whole lot of things loads of on-board storage and on-prem apps allow me to do – and surf the Web to my heart’s content.

The simple fact is that we’re in a hybrid world of computing – on-premise apps and Web apps. Windows and Macs support both well enough, but Chromebooks are only good for the Web apps.

Since on-prem apps outnumber Web apps quite a bit, Chromebooks have a huge disadvantage, hampered as they are by the lightweight OS.

Google meant well, but Chromebooks are ahead of their time and not actionable enough. We’re moving to the Chromebook world of the cloud, but not fast enough.

I believe Brockmeier’s theory that Google hasn’t cancelled Chrome OS and its devices yet because it sees it as core to its cloud computing strategy. And to admit failure in Chrome OS would deal more than a glancing blow to the company’s cloud credibility. How else will Google drive more Google apps into businesses to unseat Microsoft?

My guess is that within a year, likely less, Page will pull the plug and will bid adieu to Chrome OS as an experiment in the cloud.

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