Google calls time on the Age of Windows

July 8, 2009

tom_dunmore

-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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