Thursday, 2 February 2006

Google OS: Why?

The Google Operating System has been talked about, faked and discussed for years. But like always it's denounced by Google. Same as they do every time there's talk of a Google PC. And although the rumor mill on this keeps interest in Google high, you can't help but wonder: why would Google publicly distribute an OS?

It's easy to understand people want an OS from Google. Google has made some great, innovative products (although lately they have been somewhat under fire for recent additions) who just, well, work. And that's something products of the competition (read: Apple and Microsoft) not always seem to do. And where Microsoft is perceived as the big, evil giant, Google is seen as the renegade, a kind of Robin Hood within the technology industry (although people seem to forget that Google is a multi billion company as well). It's like fighting "the Man" to have an Open Source OS (the Google OS would be a Linux distribution) at your disposal. So the "Cool"-factor is on their side.

But you still have to wonder what Google would have to gain with this. The OS market is largely dominated by Microsoft. Windows is being used by about 90+ % of computer users and that has been the case for a number of years now. And although a Google OS would spark interest and certainly would have people switching to it, it may not be a really huge success. This can have numerous reasons.

Ease of use is just one of those. Think only about
the many games (although truth be told some are ported to Linux) which probably can't be played on the OS. And although there's a Linux equivalent for every Windows production application (Open Office for Microsoft Office, Gimp for Photoshop just to name a few) and Google will probably incorporate their own software, Windows applications are easier to attain. Just walk into your local computer shop and there's an abundance of Windows compliant software. Some you can even get in your local supermarket. Also Linux has a long way to go before it has the easy installation procedure of windows. Installing programs in Linux takes more than the double clicking of the .exe file (if necessary; most programs installed from a CD/DVD start by themselves) in Windows. And it's ease of use most people are looking for.

Then there's the way of distribution and the implications that will have. Google could go the way of Apple and control the hardware on which their OS is being installed, thus creating an OS that's specially made for that particular pc or device. But if they take the route of distributing the software for downloading (like they have done with all their previous products), it could be installed on any kind of hardware. All those different hardware components need specific drivers, so driver support from the major hardware manufacturers (Intel, Asus, Nvidia to name a few), should be part of the process. Because when an OS comes from Google, people will expect it to work on whatever it is they are installing it on. If it doesn't there will be backlash. That comes with the expectations people have of Google products.

And there are numerous other implications that need to be considdered. Google is still on a high right now (well, maybe a little less now). Brand recognition is high and most people have a very positive view of Google and its products. In order to keep that image, it wouldn't help to bring out faulty products. And when distributing an OS, there are numerous things that can go wrong. Think just about that patching that both Microsoft and Apple have to do to fix faults. Google has more people with Phd's working for them than any other company and it shows in the ingenuity of their products. So if anybody could do it, they would be the company. But Google would still be an innovative company, even if it didn't bring out an OS. People will still be excited about a Google Office Suite, browser or any other program that makes their computer experience better. But when Google will release an OS, they will be taking a huge risk and will have more to lose than to gain.

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