A Marketer’s perspective of Google Chrome OS
Will it be successful or will it suffer the same fate as several other failed Google products? Here are a few of my thoughts on whether the Chrome OS will make a “viable third choice” in operating systems.
First, Google is touting Chrome OS to be a lightweight operating system. Sure this is great, but at what cost? I see the web-only experience being very limiting to most users. It means you will have to kiss your file system and several other applications goodbye.
It’s biggest claim to fame so far is its optimization for cloud computing. Well that’s just dandy. Haven’t we all been cloud computing for a while now in some capacity? Not sure what the big deal is. In fact I see this as a huge con in Google’s back because their machines will automatically become highly dependent on the cloud for basic functionality of their applications; thereby severely limiting their market size. I’ll come back to this in a minute.
One of the hardest things to do in business is to create a brand new market from scratch. Many companies and products have done this successfully, but they have risked their time, effort, money and reputation because of the substantial market size. In Google’s case, they are nudging themselves into the tiny little gap created between the laptop, notebook, desktop market and the tablet and eReader market. This gap doesn’t make for a big market at all, nor does it have any viable purposes today.
What’s most intriguing is that I cant understand what OS is Google really backing – Android or Chrome? I know we’re not exactly comparing Apples to Apples here, but Google has been pushing Android so hard, it seems somewhat cannibalistic to me that they would now put this much weight behind Chrome. What makes this funnier is that Verizon has signed a deal that will provide Chrome OS notebook users two years worth of free 3G wireless connectivity. This is the same Verizon that’s been complaining about Android sales and cant wait to get iPhones in their kitty. Ironic isn’t it?
Lastly, the big P word. We don’t know these laptops will be priced at. Most industry people agree that anything more than $199 will not be competitive in todays market. Not sure if any of the machine manufacturers (Acer, Samsung etc) will have say in this, but if priced at $300 or higher, Google OS will directly start to compete with the tablet market pushing them into another category all together. With its considerably less (and granted, differentiated) functionality; Google can’t afford to make a pricing faux pas at their debut.
In the second paragraph I had mentioned that their pure cloud computing functionality would limit their market size. This is true today, but not necessarily tomorrow. Many businesses – big and small – universities, airlines, hotels and hospitals use Google docs extensively and several big names including American Airlines, Intercontinental and Cardinal Health, are now are doing a pilot with Chrome OS.
What I am trying to say is that despite the inherent gaps in Google’s strategy, there might be a nugget or two in there. Just like we learned to use and trust things like SaaS based CRMs – where we placed all our customer data, numbers, names and metrics in the cloud; for the sake of mobility, accessibility and simplicity – similarly, we will learn to use applications off the cloud. Most applications, formats etc will be cross platform and compatible in the future. Much deeper location integration will exist as well, and while this may not be the case today, Google indeed might be the front-runner of this cause.
But as we all know, timing is everything. Being too early in the market had landed Apple into big trouble back in the day and I am afraid Google may suffer the same fate. So, while speed and convenience of Google Chrome OS might seem tempting, I deem its future to be very cloudy indeed.