It doesn’t take a tech genius to realise how much of a player Google’s ChromeOS could become in the netbook arena. Ignore all the talk for now, its just an open source preview and their desperation to show something is coming. It doesn’t make sense until they get closer to launch and (or) the first leaked hardware is shown.
But here is the pitch; you’re in PC World, well you’re not because you never would be, but Mr and Mrs Wewantanetbookforlittlejohnny are in PC World. They walk admiringly past rows of shiny Macs and start poking at the Acer’s and the Asus’, the Samsung’s and the HP’s, the netbooks.
As we have no known hardware differentiators at this point lets skip that part and come back to it in 6 months time.
They look at the Windows netbook. Its going to be either still running XP or maybe by now its got Windows 7. Its recognisable, somewhat familiar and they don’t take too long to find the web browsers, see the Google search page and their gmail account, they can even find Flickr and this new fangled twitter thing that littlejohnny keeps raving about. Yep, Windows netbook seems to have it all and all is good with the world.
Next they see the linux based netbook. Now the eye is caught by the price tag, its cheaper than the windows netbook, possibly by some margin. Then they start to prod it and look at each other, “what is this?”, “where is the start thingy?”, the conversation doesn’t really go very much further. Its not familiar, in fact it can seem downright alien. They look lovingly back to the windows netbook and start to look for a salesman to do the deal.
Now then, this we all know. Netbooks arrived with linux, various distros, mostly horrid, all perfectly useful and workable. Then XP arrived and linux disappeared like the dinosaurs.
Enter stage left, Google.
Mr and Mrs Wewantanetbookforlittlejohnny switch it on and oh, its on, that was fast!
Oh there is the Google search page and gmail, that all looks familiar. Pretty quickly they are at home with it. The price tag is good and the sales sheet talks about; no messy software updates, all safely backed up online, easy to use, all your web applications. Sold!
linux is trying to build a UI that can work and provide an experience that allows users to ‘use’ the netbook and not have to fight the OS. Moblin, Ubuntu UNR, these are valiant efforts. But they are not there yet, not for a mass market. I use UNR on my netbook every day, everything works perfectly, I love it. I use linux on one of my desktops, windows on another, windows 7 on a laptop. I am not a typical user, Mr and Mrs Wewantanetbookforlittlejohnny are!
Google will steal this market from linux by being linux but calling it Google. Canonical know it thats why they are working with Google.
The choice could be a Windows 7 netbook or a Google netbook, the decision will be made based on price and Google is banking on delivering a hardware device that can be cheaper than the one needed for Windows.