Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) still hasn’t commented on Google’s plans to introduce an operating system of its own. An official statement is coming later today and we’ll post it here when it comes out. (Update: Microsoft now says it will in fact not comment). But there are lots of reasons why Microsoft does not need to be too concerned about Google’s foray into its home turf. Here are five:
—Windows 7 is not Vista: Google’s operating system, which is initially targeted for netbooks, will only be available starting in mid-2010. By then, Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 7, will have been on the market for at least nine months. Unlike its predecessor Windows Vista, Windows 7 has received rave early reviews. Also unlike Vista, Microsoft has promised that Windows 7 will work as well on netbooks as on high-end gaming PCs. As one Microsoft employee wrote on his blog today, “If Win7 didnt have a SKU for Netbooks, this might even be interesting.” Microsoft will therefore be in a strong position to defend its turf than when Chrome OS comes out
—Microsoft is building its own browser optimized to run web apps: Like Google (NSDQ: GOOG), Microsoft understands that more people are running applications from within the browser—and is moving quickly to adapt its products to that reality. The company’s research arm, Microsoft Research, is developing a new browser called Gazelle, which it describes as a “browser-based OS” optimized to run web apps. Just last week, the company put out a summary of the principles behind the project.
—Chrome OS will compete with Ubuntu: Chrome OS—which is open source—will further fragment the open source operating system market, since it will provide yet another option, writes Renai LeMay at ZDNet. This comes just as Ubuntu was becoming the dominant choice. He writes, “In this context, Google’s decision to create its own Linux distribution and splinter the Linux community decisively ... can only be seen as foolhardy and self-obsessive.” That could obviously benefit Microsoft.
—Are consumers ready for a life on the web? Most of the user experience in Chrome OS will take place on the web, so it’s not likely that computers with the operating system installed will be able to run any Windows applications. That will likely limit adoption. Writes Bernstein Research’s Jeffrey Lindsay, “Google would need to rely on people to more fully adopt web-based services (a long-dated proposition), or for software developers to port their applications over to Chrome OS.”
—Google’s track record outside of search is poor: Google has launched other high-profile attacks on Microsoft products, with only limited success so far. The company has gone after Office with Google Docs and Internet Explorer with Chrome. Both products may have generated lots o buzz but not much market share. And, of course, Microsoft is also going on the offensive, with its revamped search engine Bing, which directly targets Google’s core business.
By Joseph Tartakoff