Chrome and away
Anyone remember ChromeOS? It was going to be the spearhead of Google's attack on the notebook market, offering a new take on the operating system and a whole new way of using browsers. That was about 16 months ago and we're still waiting for the...
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Google's partners in this have all been non-committal about future launches - Acer said earlier this week that it had no plans for a Chrome OS in the coming months.
What happened? Well, for one thing, iPad happened, that's what. Apple's tablet launch took the wind out of Google's sails and has now established itself firmly in a dominant position.
But that's not the only hiccup along the way, some have been of Google's own doing. The engineer who kick-started the ChromeOS project left to join Facebook and the launch - and success - of Android has confused things even more.
However, we may be hearing more about Chrome OS very soon. In an interview with the New York Times, Google's vice president of engineering for Chrome Linus Upson said "60 percent of businesses could immediately replace their Windows machines with computers running Chrome OS" going on to add that it will put systems administrators out of work because software updates will be made automatically over the web.
Google has suddenly become very bullish about Chrome OS. It may have missed its own holidays deadline for this year but, this time next year, there are certain to be machines available.
Will we see them start to replace corporate Windows machines by them. That, I very much doubt. For that to happen, Google has to break some barriers.
First of all, just because 60 percent of Windows machines could be replaced tomorrow it doesn't mean that any will. They could be replaced right now by Apple and Linux machines if corporate system administrators had a mind to do so.
The reason that they don't, of course, is that nearly all enterprise systems are entirely based around Windows. The operating system is Windows and the corporate software is Office,.tjhe standard email package is Outlook, the database is IIS, servers run Windows Server with Active Directory and so on. Microsoft is integrated so deeply into organisations' DNA, it's going to take an age to change.
Then there's the fact that iPad has got there first. If companies do want a slick, browser-based device to access web-based apps, then there's really only one game in town. Why bring another one into the equation?
But above all there's the implication of Upson's assertion that such a move would put systems administrators out of work. At this time of the year, we can reflect on the old maxim that turkeys don't vote for Christmas or that sysadmins won't readily adopt a system that puts them out of work.
That's not to say that this state of affairs will last for ever. We're certainly on the cusp of a change from one IT paradigm to another as companies move from the networked PC-dominated workspace to a virtualised hosted one, just as it moved from a mainframe-dominated world two decades ago. This move, however, it's going to take some time to work through - these changes don't happen overnight.
Even so, that's still no guarantee that Google will be the beneficiaries of such a change.There are plenty of options out there for users. And not just iPads, we'll soon see the first fruits of HP's purchase of Palm with WebOS tablets as well as the plethora of machines running Google's own Android.
>Upson's assertion that Chrome OS machines will find a home in the enterprise is in line with Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt's prediction that ChromeOS will be the choice for keyboard machines and Android is the choice for touchscreens. I'm not sure the world is going to work like that: what Google would like to happen, isn't the same thing as saying what will happen. If the paradigm is now to give users choice, then vendors can't actually determine what they will choose - that's one demon that's certainly out of the bottle.
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