Google is grabbing all the headlines in the tech-nerd world with its announcement of Chrome OS. Initially aimed at the netbook market, this lightweight operating system relies heavily on "cloud computing". Since a great deal of the processing will be executed on the server side, hardware manufacturers should be able to release inexpensive netbooks that are full featured, thanks to a variety of Google products. The announcement has all kinds of implications for consumers and large corporations. I'm going to take a look at how Chrome OS impacts some major players.
Microsoft: The Redmond giant is the most obvious target for Chrome OS. Windows XP is, by far, the most popular operating system for netbooks. Although there are several capable Linux variants available, consumers greatly prefer the familiarity and compatibility of Windows. Chrome OS (which runs on top of a Linux kernel) can succeed where other Linux builds failed. Netbooks using Chrome will presumably feature heavy Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Chrome (the browser) implementation. And since the OS will be free, consumers will be getting netbooks -- with built in office functionality -- that are cheaper than ones using Windows. Currently, the price difference between netbooks using Linux and those using Windows XP is around $50. The projected difference on future, more powerful models using Windows 7 is expected to be even more. Chrome OS gives netbook manufacturers a way to keep prices down as Microsoft continues to raise them.
Intel: Google stated that Chrome will be able to run on ARM processors as well as x86 processors (Intel/AMD/VIA). At this time, Windows 7 will only support the latter. A lot of netbook makers are interested in ARM chips, due to their low power consumption and the performance they delivers per watt, but the lack of a familiar OS is a deal breaker for many. Chrome OS coupled with an ARM chip looks like a winning proposition that should have Intel worried. Remember, Intel chips come at a premium price, next year's netbooks running Chrome with an ARM chip should be cheaper than those using an Intel chip with Windows 7.