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Google, Microsoft, Chrome and the Cloud

For years Google and Microsoft seemed to operate in two separate arenas.
In fact for a long time Google have insisted that they have no intention of directly competing with Microsoft.

The first indication of a change in Google strategy occurred in June 2006 when it launched Google Spreadsheets. This was a web-based spreadsheet program similar to desktop spreadsheet applications such as Microsoft Excel or Calc. This was quickly joined by a similar web-based word processor. These two components formed the basis of the on-going development of what is now called Google Docs.

Today Google Docs represents a collection of free, web-based products including word processor, spreadsheet and drawing and form packages, much like Microsoft's Office suite, although the later is a commercial, proprietary-solution of desktop products.

The recent change occurred on June 15, 2011 with the launching of the Chromebook, and in my opinion this represents a serious challenge to the Windows/Office/desktop PC combination.

The Chromebook launch also follows what was introduced in the article The Future of Technology where you were advised to "Watch out for the Cloud"


What is the Chromebook?

The Chromebook is a thin-client laptop that contains almost no local storage and run's Google's operating system ChromeOS.

A thin-client (or lean or slim client) is a computer that relies on a second computer to perform its computing needs. The second computer (or server) typically performs the processing while the thin-client displays the output. As a result, the thin-client does not require as much processing power or storage as this is all handled by the server.

The Chromebook is as stripped down as possible. It just runs a web browser (Google Chrome) and all required programs to run this web browser. No Microsoft products are on the Chromebook at all. ChromeOS is a Linux-based system (a free and open source software product which although not mentioned in the article Why Doesn't Everyone use Open Source Software could have been cited as an alternative to the commercial, proprietary-based operating system Windows) that has been in development since 2009.


Is the Chromebook a threat to Microsoft?

I believe the Chromebook provides a serious alternative to the traditional model of desktop PC/Windows/Office. It will not appeal to everyone as it will mean embracing the new concept of using the Internet for applications and data storage (Cloud computing). However it has immediately begun eating away at Microsoft's dominance.

Google claims the total cost of ownership is 50% cheaper than for the equivalent PC/Windows combination. This includes the cost of the PC, the software, upgrades and support. This can easily be true when you think about the purchasing of software such as Microsoft Office suite, antivirus, firewall or backup utilities. And as there is no software, there is no need for support charges.

Another advantage is the reduced replacement cost (which is NOT factored into the 50% reduced overall cost estimate above). If a Chromebook is lost or damaged, all you need to do is grab a new one and log in - all data is still there and there is no chance of stealing sensitive company information from the old Chromebook as there is no data on the hard disk to take.


Concluding thoughts

The terminology can be a little confusing as it is so similar. However, I believe this is a well-though out strategic move by Google.

Chrome is a web browser developed by Google and first released in 2008. The key design aims are to be secure and fast.

ChromeOS is a Linux-based operating system designed by Google to work exclusively with web based applications. The key design is to be minimalist and all traditional processing is pushed out to a second computer or server.

Chromebook is any thin client laptop that runs ChromeOS and Chrome.

The Chromebook will take a while to fully mature and enter the markets, but I will certainly be watching to see how it is accepted by the consumers. The advantages seem clear (both cost and security) and although I expect competitors will highlight the obvious disadvantage of if there is no Internet connection, the Chromebook is useless is something, I predict the Chromebook will grow.

AB Publish customers can also rest assured. Their web sites will display perfectly on the Chromebooks. If you are one of our clients to create a Business Website with our Internet Website Creation system, you will have nothing to change for this new model. AB Publish will ensure your Organisations Business Internet site is running in all emerging technology.

Fri 17 June 2011 10:54:57

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