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Who should fear Google Chrome OS?

Google Chrome OSUnless you've been stranded on a desert island, you probably heard Google's recent announcement of its new Google Chrome OS. But instead of discussing why this will kill Microsoft or how this is the most important announcement in the history of technology, I'm asking why. Why did Google even develop a cloud OS?

I use (and love) tons of Google services. I welcome any new technology that makes my job easier or grants me some previously unavailable ability. But a cloud OS based on a browser that has between 0.35 and 2.2 percent of the market? Have they lost their minds?

Let's stay grounded. First, Chrome OS is not a viable threat to Microsoft. If you only consider the money Microsoft has banked and the money owed the company, even if you stopped the company from collecting any more money from customers right now, it would still have enough funding to remain dominant in its primary space for years to come, all while continuing to launch competitive offerings such as Microsoft Bing.

As far as Apple goes, until Chrome OS lets you download applications and music to your Apple iPhone, I'm not sure it's going to pay attention. Apple has a sizable, growing, loyal fan base that has seen it through far greater threats than a cloud OS. A similar statement could be made about the Linux community (except for the iPhone reference, of course), although this will probably have a different effect on penguin fans. They've already fired up the blog machine.

Everyone's ranting about the threat, or lack thereof, to Microsoft, Apple and Linux, but few are paying attention to who this really threatens: you.

Potential dangers

For those of you who've considered how Google's hosted applications threaten your privacy, what if they had access to the sum of your computing power and all your data? What if your actual operating system were hosted in a datacentre somewhere that you have no control or access to? Google wants to own all your data.

The company that has given us sneak peeks at its data collection and mining capabilities wants to control everything. Do we even need a cloud OS in the first place? Is it a good idea to add so much complexity to something we've all become so dependent upon? For those of you who don't agree, see my previous post on how cloud computing doesn't eliminate complexity.

My advice to Google is to finish the first OS project it started before taking on something this grand and potentially nefarious. I'm intrigued by certain limited applications for a cloud OS, chiefly travel security, but I don't think anyone has given enough thought to the repercussions. Any other Google fans out there like me that think this is a bad idea? What would we be saying right now if Microsoft or Apple had just announced Chrome OS?

See also:

Google Chrome OS FAQ

Does the world really need another operating system?

Is Chrome OS the future of computing? I hope not

Ballmer lays into Google Chrome OS

InfoWorld

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