Thursday, 9 July 2009

Google Chrome – do we really need another OS?

(By Philip Carnelley – Thursday 9th July 2009 8:15am). The tech world has been agog with the long-anticipated news that Google will launch an operating system based on its Chrome platform, filling newswires, newspaper inches and blogs (including our own – see Google takes on Microsoft head on).

But do we really need another OS?

There are many who will celebrate a potential humbling of the mighty Microsoft, including business partners who feel they have been treated harshly, or who feel they have lost out as their ideas have been taken and re-implemented by the juggernaut of Seattle with its marketing machinery. Then there’s consumers who are fed up with the constant need to replace working software and hardware with newer versions, at considerable cost and doubtful benefit.

Yet there is another side. It wasn’t so long ago that applications providers had to incur considerable development costs to create multi-platform versions of all their apps – for Linux, HP-UX, SunOS, OS/400…. a nightmare. Anyone who thought that all Unix operating systems were the same never had to port an application from one to the other (as I did). Consumers and corporate employees had to learn to use a new word processor and set of operating system commands every few years. The Microsoft hegemony really did have its upside.

So, if Chrome really does take off, this will be a real shot in the arm for cloud-delivered apps; they will be the most feasible forms of multi-platform delivery to get round the return to heterogeneity. But as the FT’s Lex cogently points out today (see here), the effect will actually be small and slow to build, especially in the business world. Hard-pressed software developers will have time to think through the implications and develop a multi-platform strategy into their own business models.

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