Operating System Competition Heats Up
Google announced they are going to release their own PC operating system called the ChromeOS. Basically the Chrome browser with a Linux kernel. They haven’t really said what else it will include. Many people have heralded this as a beginning of the end for Microsoft and their Windows monopoly. But I think the beginning of the end was MS’s failure to capture any meaningful piece of the mobile smart phone market. This has basically gone to Apple, Nokia and RIM. Google Android is a small but growing competitor as well. Basically small mobile devices are where the action is these days.
With Vista and Windows 7 being such large resource hogs, Google (and others) see a huge opportunity for small low cost notebook computers that they are calling netbooks. Basically notebooks that are under $500, where it doesn’t make sense to add another $100 for the price of Windows. Another development is that there is about to be a flood of even cheaper ARM processor based notebooks. These ARM notebooks will probably shave another $200 off the price. Windows only runs on Intel and Intel clone processors. It doesn’t run on ARM, nor can Windows easily be made to run on ARM. There is a huge opportunity here.
Microsoft is now feeling squeezed between Apple which owns the higher end of the market with easy to use and stylish Mac notebooks, and the low end soon to be dominated by mobile phone OS and Linux based OS notebooks. As Macs become cheaper and the low end notebooks and smart phones become more powerful, MS is being very strongly squeezed.
Google hopes to succeed where Linux has failed by offering a full suite of applications to go with the OS, namely all the Google web based productivity applications which include all the usual office type things along with some quite innovative new offerings.
Meanwhile what does that mean to us as business application developers? We are now faced with a plethora of platforms to support. Its not just Windows on Intel/AMD anymore. The only way to survive in this brave new world will be to write truely portable platform neutral standards based applications. Writing Windows desktop applications or fake web based applications based on ActiveX, Java Applets, Silverlight or Flash will no longer cut it. With the forthcoming new HTML 5 standard we have the opportunity to write truly platform independent applications that will run in any decent browser on any hardware/operating system. If we can be successful here and all these pieces keep falling into place, there is a really great opportunity to really provide much higher customer value.
Customers will be able to run their business applications on any variety of low cost devices with very high mobility (always connected via the cell phone network), better screens that current smart phones and batteries that will last days between charging. Ease of use will become much better as everyone standardizes on the HTML 5 standards and best practices. TCO will really become lower. You just need one of these low cost netbooks and the URL to connect to your application. No more workstation setups or program installations. Everyone will be up and running and productive very quickly. Definitely things to look forwards to.