Chrome OS vs Android
Before I can the value of a Google-owned, Chrome-based operating system, I'd have to understand what it offers to me as a user that will be different from any of the options available to me today.
In Google's blog posting announcing Chrome OS, the company notes "Google Chrome OS is a new project, separate from Android.
Android was designed from the beginning to work across a variety of devices from phones to set-top boxes to netbooks.
Google Chrome OS is being created for people who spend most of their time on the Web, and is being designed to power computers ranging from small netbooks to full-size desktop systems. While there are areas where Google Chrome OS and Android overlap, we believe choice will drive innovation for the benefit of everyone, including Google."
I spend most of my time on the Web, but the above, admittedly early, description does nothing to help differentiate Android from Chrome OS.
Indeed, I question the language: Android users are more likely than anyone to be heavily tied into the Web, given the always-on connectivity on mobile devices.
So, what, exactly, might be the difference between Android and Chrome OS, and how might that challenge Windows?
Presumably, for Chrome OS to truly be a competitive option to Windows 7 on full-blown laptop and desktop configurations, you'd need for Chrome to have wide device driver support for components and peripherals - a sandbox Google hasn't really played in before.
Without such device support, Google could run into issues with far-flung devices such as printers or graphics cards. The company might even need Windows virtualization for Chrome OS: After all, users who rely on Windows apps might still need to access those apps on any Google-based device.
And speaking of apps, while Google notes that apps for Chrome OS would work on any other browser, it still opens questions about what the advantage of a browser-based app would be to begin with.
Look at what happened with Apple's attempt at browser-based apps: It fizzled and was completely forgotten once iPhone OS 2.0 hit last summer with full support for locally stored applications.
Chrome OS may have an early advantage that the iPhone lacked, in that HTML 5 has support for locally stored data for Web apps; however, this yet-to-be implemented approach still might not help you if you're at 38,000 feet over Lincoln, Nebraska, and don't have any Web access.