Now i’m not the first to predict that soon we’ll be seeing pcs with an operating system made by Google, and there’s still quite a bit of debate on the topic. Officially Google denied it, but in such a vague way that it’s not even an answer. For those of us who don’t balk at speculation, let’s see what we can come up with:
- First and foremost, Google’s profit comes from pay per click ads on their search pages & adsense content sites. Google has offered lots of free tools & applications, all with the only real benefit for them being market share/mind share/branding/popularity. It all serves to drive up their main revenue source. Imagine a Google-infused PC that takes advantage of all their services & offerings. You’d have a Googler for life.
- Google has been building & maintaining the most complex distributed network operating system in the world for a number of years. The sheer computing power and storage ability make some massive projects quite feasible.
- Google has shown a propensity for expanding into new and interesting areas that are outside their core business (Picasa, Analytics, and now Website Optimizer). All of these serve must serve strategic goals for Google to make it worth their while.
- Microsoft has gone unchallenged in the o/s department for a very long time, and have become complacent and out of touch. Vista will cost $300-500, as much as an entire new pc. The backlash from pissed off Microsoft customers shouldn’t be underestimated.
- Most people only need a pc for email, office applications, and internet type stuff. If Google produce an operating system that will do that for very cheap (maybe free?), that will have broad appeal.
- Google can integrate some fantastic services with their operating system very easily – they will definitely have things like online backup & storage, along with all their current products like Google maps, video and the like. Imagine being able to log in to your account from any Google pc, and have instant access to gigs of your personal data, email, and documents. Of course you’d have to have an Internet connection for something like that, but broadband adoption continues unabated.
Gamers are a problem
The first big potential problem is games – right now 90% of games out there are made for Windows and that’s not likely to change unless a ton of people adopt the Google o/s, and tons of people aren’t likely to adopt it without game support. Maybe it’ll have windows virtualization or something, but if you still have to pay for a windows license that kills a lot of the benefit a Google pc would have in the first place. I can’t think of any good solutions for the gamers, but there probably is one. Maybe they won’t have to address those types at first; they can capture a lot of the market without worrying about them. Certainly businesses & large organizations are going to be listening closely to anyone who can halve their hardware/software costs. Many, many people are tired of the yoke that is Microsoft licensing and the hefty costs that go along with it.
Support is a pain
Support becomes another big issue – One of the ways Google has kept its overhead really low is to avoid having to invest in call centers. Most of their products are free and don’t offer support at all, while their advertising support is mostly via email. If they choose to enter business-critical application or o/s space, they will have to start providing it (or contract with someone to do so). It’s relatively easy & cheap for Google to produce say, Picasa – 90% of the costs go into development, then they put it out for free and don’t have to answer tech support calls from anyone who has trouble with it. If they offered an operating system with this same free/no support model, it will limit the appeal to tinkerers – no responsible IT department would commit to running their business on something that’s unsupported.
The road to domination is a tough one…
Yes, Google certainly faces some challenges if they want to start producing PCs to rival Microsoft. Given the damn near astounding way they have met their challenges so far, I wouldn’t put it past them. They could even start simply by offering their own version of Linux bundled together with all their stuff. Those of us who have had only one option in the operating system market are ready for another choice.
If nothing else, maybe it will spur Microsoft to start actually putting some effort into their offerings. As soon as MS beat out Netscape, they were bereft of competition. So what did they do? They let Internet Explorer sit on the shelf, not releasing another version for something like 6 years. That’s like achieving a domination so total in the car market that you don’t make a single change to your sedan for 40 years. Ridiculous. Microsoft has proven they will only work if pushed. So here’s hoping, Google.
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