This is somewhat a response to the post “Let’s all take a deep breath and get some perspective” which criticizes Google mostly on the basis of the “failures” of Android and Chrome. But also, everyone is talking these days about Google Chrome OS, and how it is a silly idea. Is that so?
First of all let’s start with some basics: phones take years to develop, Google Android’s first release was on September 2008. Do people seriously think the fact that there are very few phones running Android says anything at all? Not even a year has passed! Also, there was a public statement saying that there will be 18-20 Android phones by the end of the year… that’s right 20.
Also, I personally believe that the 48 members of the Open Handset Alliance are not idling waiting for their companies to be ruined in this economically dangerous time. Their best hope is to put all the chips on Google Android, and they are probably either doing, or planning, just that.
Maybe, just maybe, it would make sense to criticize Android after it has played it’s strongest cards, and not before.
It is hard to measure the success of a browser but a conservative figure says that it has taken at least 1% of the global market, that might not seem like a lot, but it’s enough to put it on the 4th place. The browser is less than one year old, and it’s already figuring among the most popular browsers.
Yet some people say it’s a failure, that nobody is using it. Well, compared to Firefox surely much less people are using Chrome, but still it’s less than a year old, most of my bug reports on Firefox are at least twice as old, and some even older. On the other hand, it’s actually nice to see my bug reports on Chromium fixed after weeks.
Not to mention that Chrome is using WebKit, a technology many players (Apple, Nokia, GNOME, Adium, etc.) chose instead of Firefox’s Gecko, perhaps with good reason.
So if I have to bet, I’d bet that Chrome will eventually catch up with Firefox and then surpass it quickly. It’s just a matter of time.
Finally, let’s talk about Chrome OS. For starters, nothing specific has been said, the announcement was just a publicity move to shift eyes towards Google. You cannot draw any conclusions because nobody knows what Chrome OS will look like. Will it be too simple? Will it have eye-candy? Will it be fast? Will it be reliable? Who knows.
What we do know is that it will use the Linux kernel. The kernel is by far the most complicated part of an Operating System. Sure, there’s a lot of things in user-space too, but you can make mistakes on user-space that you just can’t do in the kernel. And yeah, they’ll have to make a few changes to the kernel too, but that doesn’t take nearly as much effort as starting one from scratch.
Now the question is what will they do on user-space? Maybe they’ll write a simplistic piece of software that will re-invent the wheel that open source has been developing over decades. Or maybe they will come up with a innovative outside-the-box design. There’s really not much point in speculating.
What I’m thinking is that a computer with Chrome OS (and Chrome), Internet access, and Google Wave, will probably be more than enough for newer generations of kids that don’t have our preconceptions of what software should do, in fact, perhaps it will be much better than our current situation.
If you consider the big picture, I think every move from Google is strategically sound. There are huge risks, but if they succeed in their latest endeavours (they usually do), they’ll dramatically change the software game as we know it. I’m eager to see what these nay-sayers think one or two years down the road.