Google calls time on the Age of Windows

July 8, 2009


-Tom Dunmore is Brand Director & Editor-in-Chief at Stuff magazine – Stuff has over 1 million readers worldwide. The opinions expressed are his own.-

Google announced on Wednesday that it was developing its own computer operating system. It will be secure, fast, lightweight and – most of all – free. And it presents the biggest challenge yet to the long-standing dominance of Windows.

The idea behind Google ChromeOS is nothing new – it’s built on a Linux foundation and will no doubt share many of the features of other open-source operating systems. But Google is the only computing brand with more might than Microsoft: it’s trusted, and has a proven track record of building brilliant, free services, from search to instant messaging.

Indeed, Google has been busily chipping away at Microsoft’s market for some time, with the Google Docs suite of in-browser applications providing a decent (and free) alternative to Microsoft Office, while the Android mobile phone software has pulled the rug from under Windows Mobile.

Microsoft’s attempts to strike back by stealing some of Google’s lucrative internet search advertising market have had little success – hence the rebranding of MSN as Live search, and the subsequent replacement of Live search with Bing.

But Microsoft’s core business is the Windows operating system that powers nine in ten of the world’s computers. By launching against Windows, Google is declaring out-and-out war – and doing so when Microsoft is at its weakest.

Windows market share has slumped from 91percent to 88 percent in just one year, according to Net Applications. The failure of the latest version of Windows, Vista, has been so catastrophic that, well over two years after its release, many Windows PCs are still sold the previous version, XP. Why? Because Vista is simply too demanding for the new generation of cheap, low-powered – and immensely popular – netbooks.

And while the Mac market share has risen from 8 percent to 10 percents in the last 12 months, Apple’s high prices ensure that it will never truly challenge Microsoft for the mainstream.

So it’s no surprise the Google is will be targetting its ChromeOS at netbook users when the operating system is released in 2010. And if ChromeOS works as Google promises – making the most of free web services, but totally secure and immune to viruses – it will quickly pick up support within cash-strapped businesses too.

Meanwhile Microsoft’s Windows 7, due in October, promises to be faster and less processor intensive – but it’s still built on foundations that predate the internet. And it still costs hundreds of pounds.

Windows isn’t about to be eradicated – inertia and conservatism will stop many corporate environments from switching to ChromeOS. But Microsoft’s near-monopoly on the operating system could be ending. But be warned: a bigger, Google-flavoured monopoly awaits.


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I think a lot of home computing users would welcome a solid competitor to Windows. The attitude at Microsoft is altogether too preditory and anti-customer to suit me, and their operating system software is weak, buggy, expensive, and VERY vulnerable at best.

I happily anticipate a new, linux-based op system that supports existing windows applications as well as the many good freeware apps out there. And I happily anticipate a solid competitor for Microsoft. Who knows? — with a true competitor, perhaps even Microsoft will become customer-oriented.

If Google (or anyone else) comes up with a solid new operating system which is easy to use, and compatible with existing windows applications, I will be among the first to give it a try — and I’d expect many others will react the same way.

Posted by oldmike | Report as abusive

[…] is a comment piece I wrote for Reuters. Subscribe to comments Comment | Trackback | Post Tags: Chrome, ChromeOS, Google, Linux, […]

Posted by Google calls time on the Age of Windows | | Report as abusive

Titillating. But Google doesn’t walk on water. I use Google search when it doesn’t matter much and I want to avoid paid placements, but when I need a search to work right, I do it on Yahoo. Google is so damn sure they know what I want better than I do that they’re frequently useless. If they can keep their cockiness out of their OS work, I’ll adopt it with bells on.

Posted by Pete Cann | Report as abusive

What I don’t understand is the following: How is it that Google looks to gain money from distributing the OS, when it’s open source (and therefore free) ?

Will there be ads WITHIN the OS??

Posted by David | Report as abusive

I have been in the computer industry since 1956 (Univac) and have used practically every computer and operating system in existance at one time or another. Whenever possible, I use Ubuntu Linux. I must still use Windows XP for most of my work due to software compatability issues. Linux could be a very serious competitor to Microsoft if (and it’s a big if) it had a wider range of applications that did not require the user to be a perl programmer. A good example is the inability to connect a Blackberry to Evolution mail or to easily plug in any common webcam or MP3 player. It needs to be seamless. Open Office has made a very big positive change. Ubuntu is getting there but has a long way to go. Perhaps ChromeOS will address these problems. It is difficult for system developers to remember that easy to use means absence of choice. They must avoid feature creep to be successful.

Posted by Richard Grosser | Report as abusive

Development tools … development tools … development tools. Microsoft’s lead remains strong because it is a great OS to develop on. If you can’t arm a legion of developers with great tools, then the next killer apps won’t be written for your platform. As a developer I like the open source tools and philosophy but when you come down to it M$ft’s development tools are far superior and work right out of the box. If ChromeOS wants compete with Windows then make an Eclipse distro for it that rivals VS2008.

Posted by Juls | Report as abusive

There already is a superior OS on the market…MacOS. Any one who has actually tried to use Google products on a regular basis will know that they even though they might get the job done without a standalone application, they are clunky and not powerful enough for demanding users. Scientists and artists have long used MacOS for their daily needs, and the new generation of Macbooks have made this argument even more compelling.

Posted by AC | Report as abusive

Google claims that their new OS won;t pose security threats while on internet which is an important aspect of the OS. Truly going to hurt MS.

Posted by Chittaranjan | Report as abusive

People who don’t really know very much about computers and academics bash Microsoft. People who actually develop for these platforms and work closely with MS have a lot of respect for the company. If you want reasonably priced computers (lots of different supported hardware vendors) then you’re going to have to go with microsoft and pay a little bit more for all the added hardware support you get with it.

Vista was a truly bungled marketing disaster yet they still command 88 percent of the market. Windows 7 will get them back up to around 90 percent. The fact that 90% of people choose to buy Microsoft is a pretty strong indicator that once again the vocal minority are on the march.

Posted by Marcus | Report as abusive

I think there is a lot of “hype” surrounding this announcement. Please consider the following:

1. Microsoft will be releasing Windows 7 next week – something that is already a hit by users.

2. Windows 7 works great on Netbooks!

3. Remember that Netbooks debuted with Linux Os on it, but failed. Most people returned it and installed Windows XP and Vista on them – these were not even built for Netbooks. Win7 OTOH has been optimized for Netbooks and can work great with it.

4. Chrome will have to deal with hardware as well – drivers for old as well as new devices (printers, scanners, bluetooth, etc.). Who’s going to supply all this?

5. Where will you actually use this? An Internet browser only device? My smartphone can do that as well as have installed apps on it.

6. What happens when there is no ‘net? Where are my docs, contacts, etc?

7. People have a problem installing Windows on their machine since they think MS has a monoply on their hardware. Well, think of Google on their hardware as well as having full control of their DATA!

8. Only Web applications can be written for it – not something that is truly rich enough for day to day computing.

9. What about existing LoB applications already written for Windows? Will users pay the cost of moving to one on the new OS?

10. Finally, what happens in the EU? Won’t they put anti-trust regulations on the new OS to remove the browser from it? After all they did it to Win7 to remove IE. But in ChromeOS case, if the browser goes, there’s nothing else left.

I don’t see this as a major threat to Microsoft. Instead I see this taking away share from the Ubuntu Linux market!

Posted by Vinod | Report as abusive

My only issue with this article are its implications a) that top-selling Microsoft products themselves have been based on anything other than major tracts of open-source code – whereas they have, and have seldom been modified for the better; and b) that there is a “market” out there in which Microsoft has ever *earned* reputable recognition – whereas what has prevailed for too long is a monopolistic stranglehold over a widespread but inexplicably masochistic user environment which always has been Microsoft’s to lose.

Or at least gallantly loosen to let live. But of course the scofflaws at MS didn’t do that, at least not anyplace where high attorney fees trump justice.

Well, now the signals are set. Microsoft clearly doesn’t have what it takes any more, anywhere.

All you Chicken Little MS fans out there, don’t keep repeating the “Billions of flies can’t possibly be wrong” argument. Your world’s not about to end, but strap down anyway:

Vista is the *one* Microsoft failure, you say? Puhlease. Try Internet Explorer, Outlook, Entourage, Office 2003 et seq, Windows Server, Windows Media Player, Windows Mobile, Zune, XBox – or rather, don’t. They are all abysmal deviations from coder ethics, presumptive and nasty parasitic pieces of marketing fluff instead of worth their cost, or the dreadful back-end cost of installing and trying to use any of them prior to deinstallation.

If poorly-crafted, virus-ridden, arrogantly inefficient operating conditions are the best America has to offer, we may as well all shut down right now. Really. Even NASA is fed up with it. The rest of the government is sure to follow. And we all agree about cutting government spending, right?


Linux is absolutely fine for command-line jockeys and enlightened IT Guys, but it relies on vast tracts of benevolence from third-parties to remotely keep pace with the lifestyle user end of things. Not everybody has the patience it takes to install and use it, while those that do, make out.

If Apple weren’t so busy marketing teen lifestyle products, cosying up to ATT and paying lip service to Outlook addicts, they’d have wiped the slate on the OS market. OK, so that’s not what they did. But if they wanted to, they could have, long since. Beats me, why not. Probably, the cost of re-educating masochists what to do with their time when they have no more viruses to deal with and a graphics library that actually works.

If Apple is leaving it to Google to sort out the god-awful mess Microsoft has made of “its” market, so be it. I have no doubt that Google can and will prevail over MS. It’s high time somebody did.

And the world will be a better place.

Posted by The Bell | Report as abusive

Big words, mr. Bell.

I don’t care what the OS is as long as it works.

(2x OSX leopard, Win XP, lot’s of Linux distro’s. All on my desk.)

They all work.

Posted by Hans | Report as abusive

Another vague, generic and dated article.

Posted by Mr. Hat | Report as abusive