ChromeOS: Initial Thoughts

July 11, 2009

UPDATED: I received quite a response to this article, and realize now that in fairness, I should probably soften it a bit. The title has changed, the DoJ image has been removed, and the text has been updated below.

Google argued against Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Yahoo on the grounds of anti-trust and monopolistic concerns. Quoting Google’s official blog post on the matter:

Could Microsoft now attempt to exert the same sort of inappropriate and illegal influence over the Internet that it did with the PC? While the Internet rewards competitive innovation, Microsoft has frequently sought to establish proprietary monopolies — and then leverage its dominance into new, adjacent markets.

Remember, it was Microsoft’s bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows that ignited the US v. Microsoft anti-trust litigation–exclusively bundling their browser with their operating system. Is Google’s moral high ground eroding, by working themselves deeper into the OS layer?

Google is a very different company from Microsoft. It has a different history, different values. Google’s monopoly on the search engine market is more well deserved than Microsoft’s monopoly on the operating system market. Google Search is a damn good product, arguably the best out there. Vista, yeah, not so much. I absolutely respect these things about Google.

And I’m happy to use their products–Search, Maps, Earth, Blogger, Gmail, Calendar, Analytics, Custom Search Engines, etc. Note that all of these are closed source, them. I’m looking forward to the day when I’m using Google Open Source products…

I’m thrilled that ChromeOS will be Linux based. I hope that the rest of the operating system is open source software as well. Most importantly, I hope that there’s no vendor lock-in on the devices themselves. If I buy a device running ChromeOS, but want to change the software components or operating system (albeit voiding my warranty), I hope to have the ability to do so. If these devices end up being Google equivalents of iPhoness and Xboxes and Tivos, though, I don’t think the world has necessarily become a better place.

If you imagine an Internet search engine monopoly, coupled with a browser and OS, the wrong company may find themselves rubbing shoulders with:

I sincerely hope Google does not become that kind of company. I have put a lot of faith into Google and many of Google’s products. I really, genuinely hope that I can continue to trust Google and love their products.

:-Dustin

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12 Responses to “ChromeOS: Initial Thoughts”

  1. Tom Says:

    The DoJ is a tiger without teeth. Did it really hurt IBM, AT&T or MS?

    I don't think so. Google does not need to be worried.

    You need Neelie Kroes for keeping the market dynamics working 😛

  2. candrews Says:

    I think Google should be more concerned with the EU – they, unlike the (modern) US DoJ, may actually do something.

    And the DoJ really did hurt AT&T, and that breakup essentially caused the telecommunications revolution. It's just that, shortly thereafter, the DoJ became a political plaything without teeth. Which is why I'm really glad there's competition on the international level.

  3. Daengbo Says:

    MS got in trouble for tying because they were leveraging their OS monopoly to extend their business into browsers. Google isn't leveraging their search monopoly to get into the OS: Google is tying together two products that have virtually 0% market share. Once Google starts trying search to Chrome, you can start wondering, but I doubt that will happen since there's no lock-in with search.

    If Google starts trying to make Chrome a first-class search citizen and giving other browsers the shaft, you should start bloggin about this.

  4. Lucian Says:

    Chrome OS is supposed to be open source. In general, you aren't locked into Google's products and you can just ignore them if you want to.

    The same is certainly not true of Microsoft.

  5. Pereira Says:

    Hey Dustin,

    How do you think this could be done as we are proposing to EVERYPIECE (of Chrome/ChromeOS) be Open Source?

    Cheers,
    ++Pereira

  6. johnnyg Says:

    Whilst I can see it might be tempting for Microsoft to raise this issue, the irony of Microsoft complaining about another company having the timerity to make an alternative operating system available ought not to be lost.

    If the DOJ want an antitrust issue to investigate they should look into why it is so hard to get a netbook now with anything but XP pre-installed.

    I'm hopeful that Google chrome OS will prove a good thing for open source as it will raise awareness that there is more than one OS out there (in the same way I believe OS/X have beeng a good thing).

  7. Dustin Kirkland Says:

    Tom-

    I think it changed the way each of IBM, AT&T, and Microsoft did business. It's no fun to be under audit and regulations.

    :-Dustin

  8. Dustin Kirkland Says:

    Daengbo-

    Good points, thanks.

    :-Dustin

  9. Dustin Kirkland Says:

    Lucian-

    Thanks for the reminder. I have updated this post accordingly, to acknowledge the open source nature of ChromeOS. If Google makes good on this promise, and the software is not locked to the hardware, I will be praising Google 😉

    :-Dustin

  10. Dustin Kirkland Says:

    Pereira-

    Thanks for your input. As you can see above, I have rewritten a huge chunk of this article. ChromeOS can certainly be done well, in an open source way, and I will sing your praises. Let's hope that happens!

    :-Dustin

  11. Dustin Kirkland Says:

    JohnnyG-

    Yes, I think hearing more 'Linux' as a household term is a good thing. If nothing else, it's neat to hear my dad say, "I heard someone talking about Linux the other day…" 🙂

    :-Dustin

  12. Ralf Says:

    It's going to be opensource. So, vendors, like HP could simply change the default search provider to whoever pays them most.

    Hence, either google has to pay them more, or _more likely_, the end-user will _demand_ google search because of its higher quality.

    The scary thing for Google is, that this could be a success, but not turn into _their_ profit.

    And that is why I think this is one of the bravest moves I've seen in this market space for years.


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