19 November, 2009

Google Shows Off Chrome OS in Technical Preview

Google's (GOOG) entry into the Operating System space is at least a year away, but the Internet and Search behemoth showed off a technical preview of what they've been tinkering with to an audience of journalists and "techies".

Expanding on the browser that Google released called Chrome, and its currently advertised 40Million user install base, the operating system advanced by Google is a means to the future of cloud computing. All applications on Chrome OS will be web apps and all data is in sync with the cloud at all times. Basically a user would be able to log into any Chrome OS computer and treat it like your own. The Browser is the key.

Major targets for Google with this system are speed and security. With all major components of the OS, either incredibly lightweight or in the cloud, the time to get a computer up and running will be drastically reduced. The demo netbook that Google showed off was ready to go in 7 seconds. The security model Google is working on with Chrome OS is also designed for the Internet age. Building specific locks to the core of the system from applications will allow Chrome to remain unharmed by viral and malicious programs. The Internet connected self-update and synchronization system will essentially allow Chrome users to always have the most current and safest version of the operation system. If something does go wrong, Chrome can re-install a clean version right on the spot and re-sync all the user's data, almost transparently. Some advanced thinking from a company with a lot of advanced thinkers.

But, how will it all work, what about the powerful desktop applications the computing public has grown accustomed to? Well, initially Chrome is situated for a secondary computer, Internet connected for on the go work, like the netbooks and smart-phones of today. As users get more accustomed to living in the "cloud", it is Google's hope that Chrome can grow into larger and more advanced hardware. Internet technologies have also come a long way in the last couple of years, allowing for far richer web applications than in years past. That alone makes the web app only Chrome a solution to think about, as increasingly more work, social and play is done online.

So, what's in it for Google, and more specifically Google's investors? Well, the long-term battle on several fronts between Google and Microsoft (MSFT) just got a lot more interesting with today's demonstration. Netbooks are the fastest growing computer segment, according to several analyst and consumer measurement reports, and it is a field now dominated by Microsoft, first with Windows XP, and now, or so the hope is, Windows 7. Since Chrome OS is open-source and will be free to manufactures, the Zero price point will put a lot of pressure on the folks from Seattle. But to Google, this is the start of a next generation of cloud-only computing users, a part of the business, where from an infrastructure stand-point Google is dominant. The company can afford to guide development here making nothing from it, but enabling a generation of faster, and more secure web surfers, who'll in turn be more trusting of the cloud, and in turn more receptive to tailored Google advertisements .

There's that buzzword again, the cloud. Google, like other giants in the tech space, want to be the big fish in the cloud business. There are other companies that would focus on the corporate market first and get tangible business that way. A lucrative business that will be as well, but Amazon (AMZN), IBM (IBM), Microsoft and HP (HPQ) are all in competition to provide the infrastructure and cloud services for business. Google's reach has always been about advertising to the consumer, and by providing products and services for free, it's building a trust with the consumer that companies rarely have an opportunity to experience. Granted, user data in the cloud brings up many privacy concerns, but Google seems to be able to side-step its way around most issues in that realm, all the while gathering more tailored information about the surfing and shopping habits of its users.

Google's mantra is clearly changing, of course they are still behind the well publicized "Don't Be Evil" but in the new age of computing and business, Google's really striving to serve up "The Perfect Ad". Because the most lucrative ad, is the one that's as tailored as it can possibly be, because it gives the highest potential of a sale, and after all its the sale that drives business. Chrome OS is the next step towards that potential sale.

Disclosure: Author owns GOOG

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