There’s been a simmering flamewar on tech news blogs, forums, and e-mail distribution lists for years: will Google ever release an operating system? The debate has gone both ways:
On the one hand: “Never ever would Google release an operating system to compete with the likes of Microsoft and Apple! They’d shoot themselves in the foot! They already develop for all popular OSes including Linux, why would they build their own?”
On the other: “It makes perfect sense for thin client computing! Google already makes apps for just about every possible use, an OS would bring them all together! Google has the know-how and development prowess to make it happen, even if it’s a reskinned distro of Linux!”
The argument was put to rest today when Google announced the Chrome OS, scheduled to ship in late 2010. There are still tons of questions around the OS and exactly what platform it’s designed for, but most people assume it’ll be a desktop compliment to Android on the mobile side (or perhaps, as PC Mag’s Sascha Segan pointed out on Twitter, an excuse not to bring a decent browsing experience to Android) and will likely be targeted at netbooks and thin clients where Windows XP is a resource hog, Mac OS isn’t really present, Windows 7 is anticipated, and Linux (sadly) is largely ignored or disliked.
So what does Google do when it appears there are no great OS options on a platform? They come to the rescue with their own and do it themselves. They did the same thing with the mobile platform (even though they’re off to a rocky start…or perhaps more accurately limping out of the gate there) but I see what they’re doing. It makes sense for Google to launch their own OS, and the innovation that they will (hopefully) bring to the table may spark Microsoft and Apple into trimming down dead weight but beefing up features in their own OSes.
At the same time, one has to wonder if there’s any coincidence to Google’s announcement coming right on the heels of Google ripping off the “beta” label from some of their most popular products, like GMail and Google Apps.