A third consumer OS?
// January 12th, 2010 // Emerging Tech
There exists in the marketplace today two dominant operating systems that consumers user–Windows and MacOS. Yes. Linux is there, but let’s be honest, folks, the vast majority of consumers don’t know (or care) what Linux is…if we were talking about OS’s on developer desktops, that’d be a different story. But we’re talking consumer desktops here…
So what is this new OS? Well, it all more or less depends on how widely adopted tablet/slate computers become. One thing you may notice about a number of the annoucements at the recently concluded CES 2010 conference was the sheer number of e-readers and tablet computers. What’s the commonality? Most use this new OS: Android.
What will be interesting to see is not just how Android impacts the mobile marketplace, but how Android impacts tablet PCs. Could Google find a route onto consumer desktops via the tablet PC? It would give Google it’s first real opportunity to do so (I never bought into the whole “GoogleOS” notion of an internet based OS anyways–afterall, you’d still need a local OS of some sort running on the device you’d be using to access the internet).
Microsoft and Apple have clearly taken note–Apple is due to announce it’s new iSlate tablet, while Microsoft announced it’s own partnership with HP. But Microsoft’s offering is running Windows 7 (ouch for a tablet), while the latest rumor is that Apple has smartly chosen to leverage the iPhone MacOS derivative–and the 100K+ apps already developed for it. A number of the tablets running Android (from Dell, Notion Ink, ICD), the real question will be whether these tablets have access to the Android Marketplace…and what modifications developers would have to make for their apps to run on the larger form-factor devices.
What’s not so obvious is how Chrome OS fits into this picture. By offering, in essence, two operating systems, Google has the potential to split the marketplace with competing offerings, confusing consumers, and doubling up the work of developers. If Google doesn’t muzzle Android tablets (by restricting access to the Android Marketplace, for instance), Chrome will be at a significant disadvantage–as Android will start with 7.5K apps already written for it. So, it’ll at the very least, be interesting to see how Google handles Chrome OS, and specifically it’s rollout.
All of which means fun times for me…
Since it’s my job to sit back and watch developments in emerging technology, I’m looking forward to seeing whether Android gains further traction, and what happens with Chrome. But if nothing else, Microsoft and Apple have a lot to be concerned with here: any traction is likely to be at their expense (either in the mobile or desktop markets–or, worse, both). How each company has thusfar reacted (Apple relatively strongly with their tablet, Microsoft a lot less so with a disappointing HP partnered tablet instead of the widely rumored Courier) gives some insights as to how well prepared each company is to deal with the new kid on the block.
As for me, I’m happy: Google has finally found something that lets them evolve from the one-trick pony they’ve been for a disturbingly (and unnecessarily risky) long period of time…and gives me some optimism that they can diversify. My most significant concern regarding Google entering into the OS and device space is there virtual lack of experience in dealing with end-consumers with either devices or highly complex operating systems. Time will tell whether Google can rise to those challenges…