Linux: Chrome's endgame OS to beat Windows

Last week's announcement of Google Chrome had every armchair blogger speculating about the same thing: Google is out to replace Windows with Chrome as the desktop operating system. I initially had the same thought but, given that everyone pretty much had that same, obvious idea, I didn't see the need to pile on with one more blog-post vote with the same opinion. But something's bothered me about that prediction, that Chrome will become the OS to replace Windows. Building an OS isn't in Google's DNA. They build Web app components, like Webkit; platforms for Web applications, like Google App Engine; and (to grossly oversimplify) really fast data-search software and databases.

The other thing that bothers me is that the one significant experience I've had with Google software on my desktop, other than the browser-search plug-in, has been Google Desktop Search. Google Desktop Search was great for what it did, but because of the massive power drain on the system and Google's thoughtless approach to security, I uninstalled Google Desktop Search long ago. I wouldn't say I've had a positive experience with Google's desktop software, though that experience has been limited to Google Desktop Search. The bottom line I'm getting to here is that Google is far from any kind of an operating-system company, and they're already a heavy Linux shop to boot. Why would Google want to build a desktop OS when there's a perfectly acceptable alternative that will do just as much to unseat Microsoft?

The point? Google Chrome is aiming to be the application environment to run Web apps on users' machines, not to be the underlying OS of those machines. The improvements in Chrome (sandboxing, optimizing Javascript, making tabs separate processes, and so forth) are all things that help the client side of Web apps operate better. Google's strategy isn't to make Chrome an OS, it's to create a application environment optimized for users to run Web apps. I believe Google's aim is really to displace Windows with Linux utilizing a Chrome browser, not Chrome as the OS.

So, why then didn't Google come out with Chrome on Linux first instead of the Windows version they launched last week? Easy -- when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Most users are running Windows clients using either IE or Firefox for their browser. If Chrome can suck more of that application environment out of Windows and into Chrome and the Internet + Google cloud, the need for Windows diminishes. Further, optimize Chrome for Google Apps (like Google Docs), and the need for Microsoft Office diminishes. Pretty soon the need for Windows is gone, and free options like Linux can take over.

I think this is a much more credible strategy than Google writing a new OS. Letting Linux win makes more sense.

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