Chrome OS: Lame Copy or Amazing new OS?

Posted by Rob Enderle, principal analyst, Enderle Group

Sometimes I wonder about new companies.   Apple and Google both have this way of bewitching people so that, no matter what they come out with, folks drool and say that’s wonderful.  For Apple it was bringing out the last iPod Nano; “ohhh it has a radio and a low resolution video camera that’s almost as good as the first Flip!”   People, instead of pointing out that the thing was simply late and lame, got excited as if Apple had suddenly invented radio and low quality digital video cameras.   It’s not like you’d expect Apple to do a really good music or video device right? 

No wonder Steve Jobs is CEO of the decade; he could likely sell something called the iPotty and convince folks Apple had invented indoor plumbing.   Speaking of potties, I’m wondering this week if the Chrome OS is a floater.
 
With the launch of the Chrome OS supposedly scheduled for Thursday of this week we are going to see if Google can copy Apple and bring out something that is both late and lame but get rave reviews anyway.   I’m thinking Eric Schmidt is no Steve Jobs but hey, what do I know?  I mean I hear he is known in his own house as the “Next Steve Jobs”, even though, according to FSJ he has no testicles.
 
Chrome OS – Android Light or a Bad Copy of Splashtop or Hyperspace
The idea of a thin OS that largely supports a browser and boots quickly is a brand new innovative idea, if you forget the products that already do this that have been in market for some time.   There are two prominent products in market that do pretty much the same thing only potentially better.    Both products have similar benefits, ultra fast boot times, secure web sessions (they are relatively locked down and secure), and extreme ease of use.   Oh, and I should also point out they both tend to be relatively inexpensive and are based on Linux. They are called Splashtop by DeviceVM

On Thursday you’ll get to see the Chrome OS, which creatively took the name of their browser and put OS behind it so you wouldn’t mix up the new offering with the browser, is a bad copy of these existing products.   The real name should likely be Chrome OS with Chrome because the two, while bundled together, are distinctly different products.    For some reason I’m thinking that instead of Chrome they should have named the product Spam, this video may explain why. Chromity Chrome

wonderful Chrome
Google likely felt that was too confusing and so has two different products with similar names instead.   I ran into what appears to be the Google product training video  the other day and it may explain some things.  Think of the Chrome OS as the Parrot.

Now both Device VM and Hyperspace are designed to work alongside Windows because the companies that build those two platforms realized that it isn’t yet 2020 and we aren’t constantly surrounded by inexpensive high performance networks.  

We’ll see if Google figures out that not all of their customers have their own 767s with built in wireless like their founders and will need to run some of their old Windows applications.  I say Windows because Google is having a tiff with Apple and Steve Jobs evidently looked at the Chrome OS and hasn’t stopped laughing since.  I’m told that Apple staffers say the words “Chrome OS” to Jobs several times a day because, after all, laughter is the best medicine.   If true Google may be responsible for making Jobs immortal. 

Was Google Feeling Sorry for Microsoft?
This is not Google’s first OS; that would be Android which has been making significant progress on Smartphones and Smartbooks.   Typically what you’d do, if you were a smart company, is focus on the platforms you have in market until they get to a point where they are established and competitive.   Given Microsoft and Windows was the target of Android and did not have a great response there is only thing I can think of that motivated Google to announce the Chrome OS so early.  They felt sorry for Microsoft and decided to give back to the industry and help Microsoft out by making early Android Smartbook adopters look stupid.
 
By confusing the market between their two distinctly different platforms and largely blindsiding the poor suckers, er vendors, who were putting Android on Smartbooks they effectively bought Microsoft significantly extra time.  Lord knows a company with Microsoft’s size and breadth needs all the competitive help they can get. I mean it isn’t like they have a big battle chest or anything.
 
Adobe’s Contrasting non-Reality Show Strategy
I’ve been looking at what Adobe is doing with Air and their Flash Player 10.1 and their approach is vastly more subtle.   They let the OS vendors, both Microsoft and Apple, do the OS and the hardware compatibility work and then create a well branded and supported (kind of a Java done right concept) layer that lies between these platforms and the applications.    They make the technology an easy installation from websites that use it and, assuming they are successful, end up owning much of the application space as the new common denominator.  

altOf course Adobe’s path is less exciting as they don’t have Microsoft lobbyists trying to hang them for anti-trust activities, folks can actually figure out what they are doing, and their product branding strategy seems make some sense.   But what’s the fun of being competent?  Aren’t US executives expected to act stupid?  Maybe Google simply doesn’t want to disappoint people because idiot executives are the only way they can compete in a world of reality TV shows?   They do have that big unprofitable YouTube audience to satisfy after all, and the video of Eric Schmidt’s job interview  simply isn’t that funny anymore.
  
Wrapping Up
Google appears to be in the phase where they have more money than sense and are doing something we in the business call TSATW (Throwing Shit Against the Wall), pronounced SNAFU, in order to come up with something that will sustain them if Bing eventually steals their market.  Of course they could simply focus on making sure that doesn’t happen but where is the fun in that?   Netscape was so long ago and there is no way doing the same thing that Netscape did with the browser would create the same result right? 

We’ll see what Google announces on Thursday but if it is just their version of a crippled Device VM or Phoenix Hyperspace they may get away with it given how  some of us tend to be.   Me, I’m going to wait for the Apple iPotty  because I’m convinced there is Chrome OS floating in it someplace, unfortunately for Google the iPoop  name was already taken.   (If you didn’t pick this up, the links are half the fun of this piece).  

Rob Enderle is one of the last Inquiry Analysts. Inquiry Analysts
are paid to stay up to date on current events and identify trends and
either explain the trends or make suggestions, tactical and strategic,
on how to best take advantage of them. Currently he provides his
services to most of the major technology and media companies.  The
opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.