If history or recent tech upheavals are any indication, then we know that every battle has at least two sides, and only one emerges victorious.
We have seen, and in some cases continue to witness, the battle of smartphones, internet browsers, social media sites and the like, but it’s safe to say the next battle is of computer operating systems. That is, if the Register and Tom’s Hardware are to be believed, Microsoft and Google will slug it out for the next dominant OS used in our daily lives.
Microsoft won the previous battle with Linux due to a user friendly interface and momentum sustained from its previous victories over IBM and Apple operating systems more than a decade ago. Today, it’s a different world – one dominated by smartphones and tablets and where Google’s mobile OS Android is the King of the Hill. Much like Apple with its iOS accomplishments, Google is creating a complete ecosystem of experience for the consumer – the smartphone, tablet, PC and probably TV and other devices – all using a Google OS (Android or Chrome) for the seamless singular user experience.
It is said that Microsoft’s recent OS, Windows 8, is to blame for the recent slump in PC sales, driving PC manufacturers to seek an alternate OS. But I believe that the responsibility for this slump lies within the entire ecosystem and not solely with Microsoft, mainly because PC sales are affected by several factors such as a continuing global recession and a slow adoption of tablet and smartphone features like high-resolution touch displays and simple, yet responsive, applications
As a result, storm clouds are on the horizon. Linux was a group of loosely affiliated tech enthusiasts who believed that open source, with contributions from everyone, would change the world. But most of us are content consumers and not creators or coders and as a result Linux has remained a niche domain that didn’t make any significant inroads into everyday life. Furthermore as an informal organization, Linux was never able to influence commercially viable solutions for the PC manufacturers. Google on the other hand is a completely different player – well funded to fend off Microsoft and Android is very popular with consumers and developers alike. I certainly hope that Google can transfer that brand equity to Chrome OS even though if one considers the case of Samsung which invested heavily to promote its Galaxy brand to the extent that that Android is now synonymous with Galaxy.
By relying on an always-on-internet connection and the cloud to store your data, Google’s Chrome OS offers several advantages: one is reduced PC cost – instead of a 500 Gb HDD for local storage you can use a smaller capacity SSD for the OS, use applications off the Google store, no issues with a lost PC, no anti-virus needed – and the list goes on…. In terms of consumer adoption, a lot will depend on the amount of marketing investment and rebate that Google will offer to market players.
Despite the OS, it is ultimately the form-factor (the hardware) that will drive the OS adoption. PCs and Tablets will become one device known as hybrids with the dual capability of working as a tablet with the screen only and as a PC when docked into a keyboard. Then we will see whether Microsoft’s dominance in PCs OR Google’s position in tablets will win the fight.
Sound the Battle gongs and get ready to pick a side.