Cringely: Google Chrome OS Is 'Aimed at Microsoft'
Monday, July 13, 2009 at 11:07 PM EDT
The New York Times is carrying an op-ed piece by Robert Cringely on Googleâ€™s newly-announced Chrome OS, called â€œChrome vs. Bing vs. You and Meâ€. (Bob Cringely wrote the â€œI, Cringelyâ€ column for several years at PBS; he now has an independent blog site.) He sees the announcement of the Chrome OS as a weapon aimed at Microsoft, but one that is not necessarily intended or expected to be a commercial success:
He goes on to argue that Googleâ€™s principal objective is to position Chrome as a threat to Microsoft, to deter Microsoft from trying some sort of technical sabotage of Googleâ€™s applications when they are used from a Windows PC. He also says that both companies are incredibly focused on protecting their â€œcash cowsâ€: search, and the associated advertising, in the case of Google; Windows and Office, in the case of Microsoft. As he points out, these are not only the most profitable business areas for these firms; they are virtually the only profitable ones.
In essence, Cringely sees Googleâ€™s Chrome OS and Microsoftâ€™s new Bing search as the weapons in a technological version of Mutually Assured Destruction. Up to a point, I agree with him: certainly the rivalry between the two firms is an important â€” maybe the important â€” motivating factor in these developments.
But I think he is a little too pessimistic when it comes to the effect on consumers. Technology moves so quickly that it is easy to forget even relatively recent history. But if we think back 8-10 years, weâ€™ve already seen a big change in the PC software market. Microsoft has had to deliver some updates to its Internet Explorer browser, mainly because its position was threatened by Mozillaâ€™s Firefox. Microsoftâ€™s Live offerings, and its multi-billion dollar data center construction program, are very good evidence that Google has gotten their attention. Googleâ€™s services have motivated other vendors to upgrade their offerings, too. Mapquest is better than it was before Google Maps came along, and virtually every Web E-mail services has improved since the advent of Google Mail.
I think it remains to be seen whether either Google or Microsoft can take significant market share from the other. But the fact that there is now another player with deep pockets and talented staff in the game has made Microsoft behave more like a competitor and less like a firm leading by divine right. I think thatâ€™s a win for consumers.
This article originally appeared on Rich's Random Walks.