Friday, November 20, 2009

Google Chrome - when reasonable people disagree

There's been a wide variety of opinions on Google Chrome that have been announced, and two people that I respect represent the two extremes of opinion. Let's start with Rob Diana:

ChromeOS will fail because the timing is not right. If mobile phones were still those nasty little devices that made even checking email a chore, it would have a chance. However, with new BlackBerry devices, Droids and iPhones, we have the web everywhere we go. So, if the major benefits are web-only applications and a small and fast operating system, what do I really need it for?

Diana believes that ChromeOS is actually the precursor to something else:

Maybe this is just a stepping stone until Android is really ready for your PC. That sounds like a real plan, especially from the likes of Google.

But another Rob - Robert Scoble - has a different view on the success of the Chrome OS.

I’m hearing a raft of new, low-cost, devices are coming that you will only need to have on the Web. For instance, I want a cookbook on my kitchen counter that just brings me cool recipes. Right now I use my big Windows 7 computer for that, or my big MacBookPro.

But what if there were a new device that costs less than $100 that JUST does cookbooks and other things I need in the kitchen? I would buy one. A Chrome OS is all that’s needed for such a specialized device.

Of course, this depends upon whether you want to buy a dedicated device (such as the Scoble Shiny Kitchen Aid), or a multi-purpose device (such as a netbook). On the one hand, while one would think a multi-purpose device would be more valuable, you do have a lot of people buying single-purpose devices, such as game consoles and GPS navigation devices. On the other hand, these very devices are having to become multi-purpose devices in order to compete.

The key, of course, is to attract developers - another point that Scoble made in his post. Developers can only do so much, which is part of the reason for the resistance to continued enterprise use of Internet Explorer 6 - time spent on IE6 compatibility is time that isn't spent on IE8 or Firefox 3.5 compatibility. And there is natural resistance to developing for a brand new operating system, or even for an old operating system that doesn't own the majority of the market.

The one question for which I haven't seen an answer - why should a developer spend time developing for the Chrome OS? Other than the speculation that a device with the Chrome OS will have a lower price point (partially due to Google-imposed restrictions on Chrome hardware, such as no hard disk drive), what's in it for developers?
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