Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Why Chrome OS Won't Fail from Someone who Won't Use It

Hello All. I have not posted in a while, but all the talk about Google Chrome OS has gotten my brain churning. Everywhere I look I seem to run into one of two types of people. Type 1 is the Chrome OS nay sayers who claim that if it doesn't run games, or doesn't run native office apps, or doesn't do this that or the other thing that it will fail completely why would I ever give up anything my computer does ever?!?! In my personal opinion these are the same people who purchased netbooks early on and then were furious . . . FURIOUS I say that they didn't do everything their desktop did and returned them. Simple fact: Windows and Linux netbooks saw higher than normal computer return rates early on when people didn't understand them, then those return rates dropped as the lightbulbs turned on.

Type 2 seem to be people who think that Chrome OS is going to completely re-invent the computing paradigm and change everything forever. These are the same people who likely rang the death knell of traditional notebook sales when we saw the $199 EEE PC. Amazingly netbook prices have increased, with the average being around $300-$400 and traditional notebooks came down in price to deal with the reality of the market and seem to be surviving quite nicely.

So that leaves us with Chrome OS, and will it "succeed"? In my personal opinion it will. I will also not use it. At least not till it has been through several iterations. It does not meet my needs as a user. The only reason it does not meet my needs is that I run Xubuntu quite nicely on my netbook. If I ran Windows on a Netbook let me tell you the right marketing campaign and a quality demo experience would likely move me to Chrome OS. Why you say? The reason is simple. Netbooks aren't full computers. They were never meant to be, but they come with the bloat that is Windows for simple tasks. Netbooks are meant to be get work done, play simple games maybe, run some chat programs. That's all they are, that's all they were ever supposed to be. As people have gotten used to them and their expectations have come in line with that reality we don't see the constant returns, and people are using them for tasks they are suited to. If everyone were technically adept, and Linux had great marketing power and didn't have HUGE regression issues every release (I'm looking at you Ubuntu. I love you, so why do you hurt my hardware so. What did it ever do to you?) then plenty of people would run Linux on their netbooks. Linux doesn't have any decent marketing people behind it, and at the end of the day there are still hardware regression issues with every release. Without getting too far into that issue right now those issues are built into the decentralized Linux development model. You build drivers into the kernel, and you're going to have breakage. You have breakage on Windows as well, but then the third party can just release a patched driver that works with the new windows and you can download it. While not everyone does, and that causes some consternation, the third party hardware developers who choose to have that option. On Linux as an "End User" (definition of end user. NOT WILLING TO COMPILE THE KERNEL. DEAL WITH IT ZEALOTS) you have to wait for the next version of the OS which will come with new breakage. Yay, what a lovely development cycle that is. You also often have to install a new version of your OS to install new versions of popular applications in the distro supported manner. Compare this to the years of new application support that comes with every Windows release. It wasn't till Vista was almost out that I saw any applications that wouldn't run on Win2K. That's worth something.

So here comes Chrome OS. Fewer regression issues because it's completely developed by a centralized company. You don't have to wait for a new version of the OS to install updated applications. In fact you don't have to install them, they are updated automatically in the cloud, and you don't have all the overhead of Windows for the simple tasks people want to do with netbooks. This is a recipe for success. So why am I not going to use it you ask? I am not going to use it because I don't use my netbook like a normal netbook. I do audio editing in Audacity with it, I do accounting on documents that I can't ethically store on external servers, my husband does webcaming on it, which while available through the browser from Google isn't quite where he wants it yet. I am not the target audience. The target audience is a brand of consumer that currently runs Windows, hates how slow their Netbook is because they just want to chat, surf, check e-mail, and maybe play an online game or two, but isn't comfortable with "Linux".

In summary, Chrome OS isn't going to please a lot of the people who write about bleeding edge tech, which is why it isn't getting great reviews right now. It also isn't going to replace anyone's Windows/Linux/Mac workhorse machines. It is going to bring the things that make Linux good for netbooks to netbooks, while clearing out some of the deadwood that has kept the masses from adopting Linux. It is also going to cause Linux distros and Microsoft to look at how they were not serving this market and perhaps improve their offerings. Microsoft has already done it in response to the original Netbook craze. So Chrome will fill a niche that is being poorly served right now. It will likely do it well enough to be a lasting product. It's not going to take over the world, and as with most of Google's product that doesn't seem to be their aim. They are more interested in products that shape the total market into something that is better for them to sell ads. If MS and Linux redesign their products in such a way that makes the Intenet a quality enough experience that Chrome OS isn't necessary, and everyone uses the Internet more enthusiastically on their existing platforms has Google really lost?

1 comment:

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