I have to say that I’ve never totally understood the appeal of the netbook concept. The low cost is nice, but you can’t use it as your main “go to” computer. So if you have to buy another computer anyway, you may as well invest in a decent laptop. It’s not as if my 13 inch MacBook Pro is so crippling heavy I can’t take it around with me. And I get around town by walking/biking—what does America’s car-dependent majority need with an ultra-light computer?
There’s a bit more in Matt’s post — beginning with the phrase “On substance” — but I’m going to carry on anyway, because I think his initial response fails to account for the long term strategy here. From Google’s announcement:
Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks.
Matt’s pronouncement about netbooks seems fairly shortsighted. It’s fairly obvious the trajectory of personal computing is one that does away with physical media. For example, the MacBook Air might not be a great product yet, but don’t be shocked if in a few years CD-ROM drives go the way of the floppy. Following along these lines then, Google isn’t so much “initially” targeting the netbook as much as it is trying to carve out market share on the device most likely to be at the forefront of personal computing.
What’s more, even if Chrome proves mostly to be a repackaging of Linux under the Google imprimatur (as Matt postulates), I think the move is still extremely significant. Despite Google’s tentacular reach in the digital economy, it’s not inconceivable — though unlikely — that the Google empire could be undone if someone manages to substanitally improve the way people search. Again, it’s a serious uphill climb, but with the right resources, and crucially, the right product, a company — say Microsoft — could suck away advertisers, ultimately reducing Google’s share of ad dollars until it could no longer sustain itself to lose money on YouTube. Google’s strategy seems to be the opposite (though entirely consistent with Google’s horizontal movement), which is to move in to the space that Microsoft dominated. It doesn’t take a genius to see the power that comes with being the chief provider of operating systems, nor does it take the sagacity of Buddha to see why a Google Operating System would drive users towards using a Google search — especially if functional integration actually created a better experience.