Google’s Chrome: under a cloud?

I was interested to read this week that Google is going to launch its own
operating system (Chrome) to challenge Microsoft’s monopoly.

It also emerges that it is really a means of having a ‘thin-client’ to allow
the user to interface with Google’s ‘cloud’ computing applications hosted on its
own servers. I remember Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle, had the same vision in
the late 90s.

Cloud computing is great if you have fast access to the internet – but a
disaster for mobile computing.

Will we still be able to share ‘stuff’ like Word documents with others? I use
Google Apps for letters and spreadsheets, my files are stored on Google’s
servers. I share my spreadsheets in Google Apps with my marketing manager and
telesales people, who all work remotely. It’s great. It allows us all to see the
latest version of the information. Of course these applications do not have all
the bells and whistles of Microsoft Word or Excel, but they do have the
essentials and my ‘stuff’ can be easily downloaded to be used in Microsoft
Office. And they do require fast internet access.

So, will Chrome be taken up by the public? It will be free so it will bring
down costs. But will it work? Most of us are unaware of which operating system
we are using with our BlackBerrys, iPhones or the like, but we are certainly
aware of which one is used on our PC – no matter the size or portability of that
PC. In the past we have found that we cannot always get the applications that we
want to work on some operating systems.

My family all use Apple computers – brilliant for graphics. But even Apple’s
operating system has a very restricted number of business applications that will
run on it. This will be the same initially for Google’s Chrome. If Chrome gains
market share then software developers will be keen to adapt their applications
to run on it – but this all takes time.

The answer, Google hopes, will be online applications.

So, will Chrome be successful? I believe it will. It will be designed for the
online environment – unlike Windows. Like Linux, Chrome will have a significant
effect on Microsoft, bringing down prices and reducing complexity. Certainly
Chrome can be portrayed as being the key to ‘cloud’ computing where everything
is internet-based. We just need to solve some of the practical operational
problems first.

Dennis Keeling is an independent software analyst and
founder of Business Software Intelligence

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