Chrome OS Is No Threat to Apple for Now

by Albert Wan Dec 02, 2009

In a keynote address, Google recently unveiled its operating system, Chrome OS. Relying heavily on the Google Chrome browser (which still has not arrived on the Mac), Chrome OS intends to move all data to the cloud and have all of its apps accessible through a browser.

Crazy? Innovative? Not really. Apple had this idea too, and it was a dud. Apple had the goal of web apps and cloud computing with the iPhone during its release in 2007, but it was met with large opposition. At the time, with the version 1.0 software, iPhone users did not have any apps installed on their phones: everything was done through the Safari browser. As jailbreaking became popular in the latter half of 2007, it was clear to Apple and to the tech industry that the world was not ready for total cloud computing and web applications, leaving Apple to partially open up its iPhone OS with the software development kit in 2008. The rest is history.

Being the tech geek that I am, I downloaded a build of Chrome OS and ran it under virtualization on my Mac a couple hours after the presentation. After playing around with the operating system for about five minutes, I realized that it closely followed Apple's web application: the Chrome OS is essentially the Chrome browser. That's it. Nothing else. There's no text editor like TextEdit or Notepad, no Terminal or Command Prompt for any modifications. Nothing. Just the browser and that's it.

Google's goal for users to move data off of their own local drives to the cloud is a daunting one. With the recent horror stories regarding T-Mobile and the Sidekick, cloud computing is still steps away from becoming fully reliable; Google itself even experienced its own cloud outage back in May of this year. Apple's MobileMe also experienced its share of periodic outages, leaving users outraged at unreliable service for such a steep price. While chances of the cloud failing while working is decreasing steadily, working locally is still the optimal solution: blackouts do not affect laptops, connection to the Internet is not needed, and the data is stored safely on the computer rather than on a server "in the cloud." By being completely reliant on the cloud today, users are susceptible to potentially unavailable and even lost data without their knowledge.

With that said, Google's Chrome OS is not a threat to Apple (or even Microsoft) at this time. Most users are still comfortable to carry data locally since the Internet is not available everywhere a user goes. When that problem is solved (tethering for the masses comes to mind) and data security and accessibility is solid enough, Chrome OS could possibility be a threat to Mac OS X and Windows.

However, Chrome OS does target a select group of users today. With some only needing an email client and a web browswer, Chrome OS is an optimal solution. iChat, iTunes, iLife, and several other applications would almost never be used. Netbook users come to mind, and it is entirely possible that Chrome OS will become the de facto operating system on netbooks in the future, a market in which, Apple does not have a product yet.



  • “Microsoft wants to shut Google down. So, what choice does Google have, but to attack where Microsoft is weakest?”

    I think it is the other way around. MSN search (then Live search. Now Bing search) has been around even before Sir Sergey and Lord Larry came up with their magic algorithm. So, MS did not get it right, we know, but does that give Google license to kill Windows too?

    Again, Google is an advertising company doodling in software. Yes, they have some success in GMail and Maps (homegrown only please) but creating a compelling OS is not exactly the same level as apps. You only have to scour for Android news lately to understand what Chrome OS will be.

    Robomac had this to say on Dec 04, 2009 Posts: 846
  • “MS is quite vulnerable, now. We do not know, yet, if the world will accept Windows Seven”

    Yes and no. Yes if you are on top of the pile, you are always vulnerable to attacks on all sides. Look at Apple making strides with the Mac, iPhone, and Touch against anything MS has to offer.

    No because Seven, from my perspective, is a polished up Vista but not acting like Vista was. I think 7 has a real, real chance of convincing all those XP IT managers to upgrade finally after 9 years! Some 10% may go OSX but the bulk will go 7. Is 80 some percent still too vulnerable, Bard?

    Robomac had this to say on Dec 04, 2009 Posts: 846
  • “Perhaps, but, Google isn’t creating a new OS.”

    B.I.N.G.O.! Damn you Google for taking our Free-As-In-Beer code to devastate Windows and OSX and send WebOS out to pasture!

    Robomac had this to say on Dec 04, 2009 Posts: 846
  • “The Linux Desktop has been unacceptable to the novice user, because of the FOSS community’s personality defects. Google might be able to overcome those defects.”

    The key word is “might” and the chances are not that good, Bard.

    Robomac had this to say on Dec 04, 2009 Posts: 846
  • “Apple will not be fighting with Google; it is not engaged in the lower end of the consumer market.”

    Not yet anyways. The much-rumored iTablet will change that equation overnight. Apple may not be saying publicly but the iTablet with version 4 of its MID OSX will knock the socks off the ChromeOS. Then what will Google do? Make an iPhone-killer? Oh, they are trying that now with DOA Android OS. Ha ha ha.

    Robomac had this to say on Dec 04, 2009 Posts: 846
  • “Microsoft will have extreme difficulty jacking up Windows Seven and putting real foundations underneath.”

    Seven is designed to be a desktop OS not a MID OS. But Seven already shown a peek of where Windows will go next: modularity. XP Mode is a great example. It is now virtualized in its own sandbox. Eight will go even greater lengths to purge old legacy code and more modular to scale down like OSX. Just don’t count Microsoft out of this game.

    Robomac had this to say on Dec 04, 2009 Posts: 846
  • “Google’s market is part of that 50 percent of the world who don’t use computers now along with Windows XP users on very old hardware.”

    Remember the One Laptop Per Child’s XO laptop with similar tactics as a Linux kernel running a custom GUI called SugarOS? It flopped. Big Time. No one wanted to use it since….it was not XP compatible they all said. The other 50% of the world knows what they want - a real working OS with real applications that doesn’t require the “cloud” to work.

    Robomac had this to say on Dec 04, 2009 Posts: 846
  • “So, the future is up for grabs; it is a whole new ballgame”

    Nope. The future is already roped by Apple and Microsoft. Sorry Google.

    Robomac had this to say on Dec 04, 2009 Posts: 846
  • RoboMac, Apple cannot solve this problem without sabotaging its brand name. It is better that someone else do this. The computer market needs more competition, not less.

    Yes, I was mistaken about Fusion. Why virtualize XP or Windows 7? Because they are insecure. It is one of the few ways to secure Windows.

    It would be very hard for Microsoft to come up with a MID OS to compete with Chrome, because it would break all the windows applications if it had secure foundations.

    Chrome need not be original. This is a matter of marketing, not technology. All it need do is to serve needs which no other OS is serving. It is better that Chrome is not original, so it can grab the best from other OS’s.

    Why would the FOSS community extend Chrome? Because they can. I expect the Linux desktop to improve over time. Its problem is with its interface, not its fundamentals. A consumer OS needs to hide all the geekyness.

    Google cannot confine itself to “its chosen market,” because Microsoft will attempt to sabotage it. MS has done this before with other competitors.

    Competence in coding software and character flaws are not incompatible. The FOSS community is self chosen; it tends to exclude normal people. That is why its OS excludes normal people.

    UrbanBard had this to say on Dec 04, 2009 Posts: 111
  • Google need not be competent in coding. It has contracted with Ubuntu for much of the work. What needs to be different is the interface. It needs to be easy to use. No one ever accused Linux of being that.

    One of Google’s strengths is that it an advertising company; It knows what can be sold to ordinary people. No one ever accused the FOSS community of knowing that.

    Microsoft is vulnerable because of its bad, short term decisions which are catching up with it.

    The Windows market base can be considered active and inactive. The active portion is being replaced periodically. This includes the 20% who bought computers with Vista on it in the last three years plus about 15% of the XP computers. A substantial portion of Wintel sales are of low quality and are replaced within two years. They are in a landfill, so they are not affected by this.

    The inactive Windows market base is in the Enterprise market and does a single task well on old software. It won’t be replaced until the hardware breaks. The Inactive market consists of all the Windows 2000 computers and about a third of the Windows XP base.

    I’m expecting Apple and Google to fight for the consumer market. They will meet somewhere in the middle, if they are able to squeeze out Microsoft. So what? Competition is good. That it how companies are forced to serve customer needs. Microsoft’s monopoly has not been good for computer users. We don’t need another monopoly, thank you. Even if that is Apple.

    Besides, none of this will happen overnight. Chrome is a seed planted for the future; it will take decades to mature.

    Android was never aimed at the iPhone. It’s business plan was modeled after Windows mobile and was aimed at it. That is why I don’t hold out much hope for it.

    As I said, my programmer friends say that Microsoft can spend billions like they did with Longhorn and still not be able to carry it off. Pursuing this incrementally will take decades. That will allow a competitor to steal the march. A modular Windows OS may not be object oriented.

    It would be better, cheaper and shorter if Microsoft started an OS from scratch and built good foundations. But, this would break most of the Windows apps.

    NeXT Corp did this in three years, but then found that it had no developers or users. When Apple bought NeXT in 1997 they tried to get the developers to rewrite their code in Objective C. The Developers refused, so Apple was forced to include the procedural Carbon API’s as a bridge to work within its Object Oriented Mac OSX. Apple is using the move to 64 bit code to sideline the Carbon API’s, but it will be over five years before they are completely removed.

    I had hopes for Linux at one time, but those have faded. No one else is putting forth the effort but Google. Apple is unlikely to want much of Microsoft’s market, for one reason or another.

    Markets are never sewed up. Change is always with us.

    A technical sea change is almost upon us. Microsoft will find it very difficult to adapt. Apple is unlikely to want most of the devices which take advantage of that sea change, but it will want to operate flawlessly with them.

    Linux will be the major beneficiary, but it has a lousy interface. That is where I have hopes for Chrome: being that interface.

    UrbanBard had this to say on Dec 04, 2009 Posts: 111
  • The computer market is in the doldrums and will be for some time. The economy is stagnating and shows signs of increased price inflation, later next year. Obama’s social agenda is retarding the recovery. Businesses are unsettled. They have no idea what taxes and regulations which they will be forced to cope with, so they will hunker down and spend as little as possible. I do not expect them to be spending money on new computers or upgrades.

    The following webpage shows where the market was last quarter.

    The charts show where Apple and Microsoft stand. The Government and business markets are way down for both. Microsoft is down in every area but the home market, but lower than Apple. Apple has positive growth in Education and the Home markets, but is down everywhere else.  The Small office market is down for Apple but is higher than for Microsoft.

    We do not know much about this quarter, yet. The reports are that Apple is doing well in selling notebooks and the new 27 inch iMac is a sold out success, but that may be from cannibalizing Mac Pro sales in Apple’s graphics market.

    The Wintel computer market is lackluster and we don’t know yet about how many older computers are being upgrading to Windows Seven. Windows Seven’s portion on the Web has moved from 2 to 4% in the last month.

    The Vista users (18% of the computer market) have every reason to upgrade, but we don;t know how fast they will move. The Enterprise market, which has the bulk of the old computers will be slow to change because of poor economic conditions.  It’s just too soon to say.

    I expect that Apple will be getting a boost around the middle of next year when it changes to the 64 bit kernel. The word will get around that Mac apps are much faster in 64 bit when Grand Central Dispatch and OpenCL are being used.

    Mac apps are already 10% faster than Windows apps in BootCamp on the same notebook computer. The 64 bit apps will be much faster than that.

    Yes, I know that Windows Games are about 30% faster on those above notebooks. But, that is because Apple throttles back the GPU to conserved battery life and Windows doesn’t.

    UrbanBard had this to say on Dec 04, 2009 Posts: 111
  • The mistake I made was is confusing VMware Fusion, when what I really meant was WINE. WINE development will continue on linux and will run on the Chrome OS. It will use HTLM 5 outputs. The older XP software will be converted for WINE to steal away Microsoft’s inactive XP users. This will be done because it will be of little cost to Enterprise and the economy is going to be poor for years. It will be cheaper for enterprise to contract with WINE developers for service than Microsoft. MS will be trying to push XP users into buying new Windows Seven computers, but the companies won’t have the money.

    I agree that Chrome will start off intentionally skimpy, but it will grow rapidly. The reason is that Linux is not stopping its Desktop development, but the FOSS community does not know how to make a general purpose OS.  Chrome will have enthusiasts who will be pulling ideas and code from many locations. There is nothing to keep the Chrome enthusiasts from borrowing from BSD or Apple’s Darwin.

    Google will have great difficulty in managing this. Eventually, it will give up and put out an official version. There will be other distro houses like Ubuntu and Red Hat now. They will be taking from Chrome, too.

    What will be pushing this is a general distrust of Microsoft Windows which will be increasingly bloated and insecure. The Linux Distro’s will be worked on, but will never have a general audience. The big problem with an operating system is that it needs developers and users. NeXTstep was superior to every OS around, but it could never gain traction.

    If Chrome starts to gain users, big time, then the linux developers will come to it. Linux remains about 1% of the world market and I don’t see it getting much larger for general use. But, a whole host of stand alone devises will be running Linux in background. This will be driven by very cheap computers-on-a-chip processors. Every device or peripheral will have its own computer and will be run by Linux in the background. Chrome is likely to become the foreground for them.

    Meanwhile, Apple will be going its own direction; It will have little or nothing to do with Chrome. Mac users will use Google services, but they don’t need a new OS. Windows users do.

    UrbanBard had this to say on Dec 06, 2009 Posts: 111
  • Wine… the delicious fine cabernet sauvignon from the FOSS folks. Who can resist free Windows emulator (No! Wine Is Not an Emulator - thereby the name, folks). If I am a coder and I am “emulating” all W32 calls and hooks then what am I actually doing? Emulating W32.

    I have used Wine since 1.0 myself. Works no doubt. Even CodeWeaver’s CrossOver emulator. I think you were actually referring to CrossOver taking much of the XP left-for-dead enterprise IT knockheads. I don’t think enterprise IT will deal directly with something like WineHQ. But, anyhow, CodeWeaver might be a viable alternative since it is a legit business outfit.

    I agree having Google as another OS competitor will only make the market that much more exciting given the size of their treasure vault. Google can even afford to come out with a skimpy beta version, satiate our appetite, then come out with a good version 1.0

    That is great for everyone. Apple and Microsoft will have a formidable company to reckon with. It will keep them on their toes. It will enhance their “innovation” and come out with exciting new stuff. It is this “new” stuff - new directions - that we won’t know until Chrome comes out and starts gaining traction (as you keep wishing, Bard). There are so many ways both Microsoft and Apple could branch out in other business model.

    Note portable gaming. I could then visualize Apple going in this direction when the iTouch came out but blog friends kept saying the iTouch will never be a games machine like the DS and PSP. I told them they were looking in the present form - no SDK, no AppStore, the hardware is barely 1.0, so on, so forth. Now, forward 3 years and now we can see that Apple is moving in this direction, big time, and have Nintendo and Sony watching their behinds. Next is the console replacing the AppleTV that will become the living room game center. The iTablet for casual computing and portable gaming priced to beat the netbook form.

    There are just too many blurry pictures right now for Chrome and Google’s intentions of it. Sure they want to have OEMs preinstall Chrome with their netbooks but will the Acers and Asuses of the netbook world replace XP or Linux? It is hard to imagine consumers will buy something that will not run their applications.

    Applications…Google will want to control what applications run on their dear ChromeOS. They will have an “app” store themselves. Google will no doubt will hit a wall. It will run into the classic “chicken or the egg” conundrum. Will developers (from where? they are all too busy coding iPhone apps) come? Will Google themselves code the apps? How much revenue-sharing for each app registered? Will the store handle all the transactions as smoothly as Apple’s App Store? There are a lot of questions for Google to answer in a year’s time.

    Right now is not the right time for Chrome’s “cloud” computing. Perhaps in a decade or more when the slowest speed is >100Mbps (Fast Ethernet line speed) then this proverbial “cloud” nirvana can be realized. Not when most of us cheapskate folks rely on 1.5Mbps down/384kbps up and even 56k dialup for judas’ sake! It will not work next year or the next. You think Google can wait for another 10-15 years? Bring it on.

    Robomac had this to say on Dec 07, 2009 Posts: 846
  • I was reminded this weekend of how hazardous prediction is by reading an old Science fiction book. In it, The great writer, Isaac Asimov, made some predictions in his 1974 article, “Is there hope for the future?”

    After looking fondly at the possibility of a one world government centered in the United Nations and listing the improbable events which had occurred since 1954, he sidestepped the possibility of all-out nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Then, he made some safe predictions. How did those predictions turn out in the last 35 years? Not well, at all.

    1. The end of Sexism.
    2. The end of Racism.

    Despite America becoming the most tolerant country in world history, racism and sexism continue.

    Would Isaac’s mind boggle at the prospect of the victims of Sexism & Racism in 2009 turning into White people and married, heterosexual, conservative, religious females who liked to have plenty of children? Those were the norm back in 1974.

    3. The end of war.

    He was dead wrong here. The war he feared was nuclear war, not terrorist or low intensity conflict. The latter has been carried on through out the millennia, mostly through tribal war. Why he thought they would end is beyond me.

    4. The extension of lifespan.

    He was partly right here; medical advances allow more people to live into their 80s, 90s and 100s. But, he meant more than that. He meant beyond human life expectancy which has a normal limit of 120, now. That is the equivalent of what very well cared for mammals approach in laboratories. But, a life expectancy of 200 plus years is still science fiction.

    5. The expansion of man’s range.

    What he meant by “expansion of man’s range” was off the planet Earth. That is still unlikely.

    Predicting is a fool;s game. Even so, the new year is approaching, so prediction is traditional now.

    UrbanBard had this to say on Dec 08, 2009 Posts: 111
  • Let me take a step backward. Let me talk about the trends, I see, which are driving coming events.

    1. Monopolies do not last, unless they have a government protecting them.

    Any monopoly, which uses its power to sabotage competitors and cheat its customers, sets into motion the cause of their downfall. Partly, this is due to the incompetence which arises when companies are protected from the marketplace. Also, competitors combine against the monopolist. Or the technology changes which undercuts the monopolist’s advantage. The monopolist will exert great energy trying to put off the inevitable, but that merely invites more enemies.

    Given this, the question is how long can Microsoft’s monopoly last and how will it be taken down? You can already see weakness in Microsoft’s business plan. Enterprise companies refusing to accept Vista is a symptom of that weakness. Windows Seven, while better than Vista, is a stopgap. It will not shore up the monopoly for long.

    Microsoft has technical deficiencies in the Windows OS which will be very difficult, if not impossible, to fix. Real solutions to Windows’ flaws have ramifications which Microsoft will try to avoid. It is still unclear how successful they will be.

    2. Moore’s law continues to operate and this will aid or hurt different competitors.

    The numbers of transistors on chips are still doubling every few years. The leading technologies are taking on two forms: Multi Core processors and Computers-on-a-chip.  Some companies will take better advantage of:these trends.

    Apple is gearing up for a big push into multiple core computers. This is inline with its niche markets in graphics, design, eduction and the upper end of the consumer market. This will also appeal to the Small to Medium sized Business market.

    Apple does not have the infrastructure, or marketing plan, to deal well with Government and Big Business sales. This will remain Microsoft territory, although Apple will nibble around Enterprise’s edges.

    The lower end of the consumer market is up for grabs. Apple doesn’t want it, because there is too little money in it.  Although, Apple may create consumer electronic devises in this area, like a tablet computer.

    The real trend upsetter is the Computer-on-a-chip and the beneficiary of this will be LInux. What this means is a multiplication of devises. Apple will be busy elsewhere and Windows will be incompetent to satisfy this market. Apple won’t care about these devises so long as they use open standards which it can communicate with.

    3. Large segments of Microsoft’s Windows XP computers are likely to remain inactive. The computers are too old to take advantage of Windows Seven and there is insufficient reason for Enterprise to change their work flow until the hardware breaks. Microsoft will attempt to push these people, which may have 30 to 40 percent of computers world wide, into upgrading. But, this invites a reaction.

    This segment represents an opportunity to stand alone Linux devises which act as Cash Registers, Displays and Front Ends to mainframes or the web. This is where the Computer-on-a-chip combined with cheap screens will have an advantage. This is also where Google’s Chrome OS can gain a foot hold.

    4. The FOSS community does not have a clue to what consumers want. They will not be taking over the lower end of the consumer market. Nor will they succeed in appealing to the inactive Windows XP market.

    But, they will be creating the underlying technologies to compete with Apple or Microsoft. They are simply unable to market these technologies. Someone else may market them instead.

    5. Google is creating the Chrome OS for two purposes: to protect itself from Microsoft’s sabotage on Internet Explorer and to steer non technical people to their web services.

    This latter purpose is vital. The only way to expand the computer market is to bring in people who don’t like computers. Apple will be doing this in the upper end of the consumer market, but the Windows OS is a good reason for non technical people to avoid computers.

    6. A market vacuum exists for the Windows XP users which comprise between 300 and 500 million computers. Market vacuums tend to get filled.

    It is unclear to me how this will occur. One way is that Microsoft succeeds in persuading the Windows XP users to upgrade or buy new computers. Maybe, specialized Linux computers will move in to take over these functions. Or someone takes from everyone to create a light weight OS for low end consumer computers and the Windows XP market. Of course, we get a combination of the above.

    Will it be Google which expands their OS into new markets? Or will Red hat or Ubuntu be modified by adding Chrome’s GUI? I don’t know.

    There are plenty of hungry competitors in this world who will take a chance and have little compunction against stealing code from where ever they can get it. Or India or China’s government could steal from everyone to create it. I just think that someone will do it.

    Of course, that is speculative.

    UrbanBard had this to say on Dec 08, 2009 Posts: 111
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