Thursday, 9 July 2009

Google Chrome OS will kill Windows.. but thats not the point.

I've written before about the World being taken over by Google and the latest announcement about Google's plan to launch their Chrome OS seems to be another step in that direction. What I am am finding though is that because of the OS aspect of the name, many commentators are automatically putting this dark horse in the race with Windows 7 and seem to be downplaying the Chrome aspect of the equation. (Other Chrome vs Windows posts here and here) If you take a scan down the list of products that Google have in their stables, you will find that generally anything that is released to the public is done with a great deal of forethought. For instance, when Gmail was launched with one gig of storage space, it wasn't because they were generous or charitable. It was a means to an end, and that end was to change the way we use email. Over the years since the launch of Gmail the way we related to email did change. No longer did we connect to our email account via a client like Eudora or Outlook and download our messages onto our computer, but we kept the emails on the Google server so we could store and search them in the future. Other players like Yahoo and Hotmail also followed suit to offer a lot (if not unlimited) online storage for emails online. As we became more internet reliant, we began to connect to our email account in more than just through our browser. We started to use our mobile devices and we are increasingly become less reliant on one machine that stores all our data but we can now access our data through any machine with an internet browser. The point is that who dominated the webmail market didn't matter for Google, all they wanted was for email users to be more reliant on an email storage service provider. They wanted us to begin to live in the cloud.

As time went on, Google not only developed their master plan through innovation but also through acquisition, buying up startups to build their empire. Putting in place the foundation for moving not only email but documents, spreadsheets, presentations, gps maps, images and video into the cloud. Bit by bit, Google has chipped away at how we compute. Where once upon a time we used to bulk up on processing power so that we could run applications on our machine, we are now slimming down to netbooks, iPhones and Androids that can do as much as what an average computer user was doing on their own PC. Google Chrome OS is therefore not only a clever move by Google but it is the only move.

From a business strategy standpoint, what looks like a move to go head to head with Microsoft is actually the finishing touches on a battle that already won. Google Chrome OS is not a new venture for Google but the end game for a strategy that has taken years to achieve. Google Chrome OS is actually a strategy to move downstream on the internet value chain. What does that mean? To illustrate, lets take a non-internet based example.

Imagine you make lemonade. You make damn good lemonade that people like to drink but you just make it and sell it to people who come to your lemonade stand. Other people in your neighbourhood also less lemonade but it's nowhere as good or as cheap as yours so over time, they come to you and ask if they can be bought out by you so that they can play a part in your lemonade superiority. Pretty soon all the lemonade that is sold in your neighbourhood is yours and the people that sell it work for you, but the stands from which they are selling from are not controlled. Some sell from crates on the driveway, some sell from refrigerated carts outside the shopping mall, some sell from dispensing guns strapped to the someone's back at football matched. Sometimes, the lemonade is perfectly served with ice cubes in glass tumblers and sometimes it's served warm into plastic cups. So the natural way to control the quality of your product is to start by vertically integrating your near-monopolistic business to supply all your lemonade through refrigerated mobile outlets. This is not about building a better mouse-trap but it is about controlling your supply chain.

The other strategy you could have considered was to start buying up lemon trees and sugar cane plantations but in the case of Google's supply chain, they already own the servers in which the entire internet is gradually being downloaded and stored. Comparing Google Chrome OS with Microsoft Windows is like comparing a lemonade stand with a chain for shoe stores. It's no comparison. Sure they both serve customers and sell product, in the same way that GCOS and MS Windows both let you work on a spreadsheet but one is providing you access to the "cloud" that Google has been building for the last decade and the other provides you access to the information that is stored on your computer.

Google Chrome OS for the time being has no competition. It is a browser that has decided that it no longer needs someone else's operating system to exist and to let it's users achieve what it needs to achieve on a computer. The closest thing that it really would compete with is Adobe Air or a browser app that is written in Java, and even these are only cross platform applications rather than something that does not require a platform at all. (on the assumption that GCOS is actually platform independent.)

Where will this all lead? I would imagine that sooner than we think we will be doing complex computing through devices that have the same built-in computing power as the Amazon Kindle that connects us to the computing power of billions of servers spread across the planet. I predict that as newspapers slowly die off in their current form, it will be gradually replaced by something that looks similar (and is equally disposable) but was evolved from the netbooks of today.

Posted via email from Dedric's posterous