For a lot of reasons, which I go into another tale on Chrome OS, I think Google might be able to do what so many others, like Apple, Novell, and Red Hat, have failed to do: disrupt Microsoft's iron-grip on the desktop.
I know some people can't see it. They look, as have I, at the trouble that you can get into running anything that requires a constant and fast network connection. I've been looking closer at HTML 5 and its inherent local storage and processing abilities. I've also been taking a long hard look at what you can do with Google Gears. Put them together, which is exactly what Google will be doing in Chrome OS, and you have a platform that's going to work pretty darn well for users whether they're online or not.
So, this is all good news right? The Linux desktop finally gets a champion that everyone already knows and trusts. Users who might be puzzled by KDE or GNOME will already know how to use Chrome's OS' familiar Web browser interface. And, they'll also have no learning curve to speak of to pick up Google's well-known-and no longer beta!--applications. Put it all together with its free price-tag, and Microsoft should be worried sick.
For the first time in well over a decade, Microsoft is going to have serious competition. Based on how Ballmer fumbled Vista, and Microsoft's complex and confusing sales plans for Windows 7, I think Google has an excellent chance of knocking Microsoft off the desktop throne.
But, do I really want a desktop operating system, Linux-based or not, which will need Google's online applications to run just as much as a car does gas? Eh... I don't think so.
You see, it's never been so much that I liked Linux over other operating systems; it's that I liked both its excellent quality and the freedom of choice that Linux has given users. If I want one kind of desktop, I can use GNOME 2.26. If I want another, I can use KDE 4.x. If I don't like that, I can use KDE 3.5.10. Do I want a Linux that can work and play well with proprietary software? Well, then I probably want Novell's SLED (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop) 11 or Mint 7. Do I want nothing what-so-ever to do with closed software? No problem, I'll just download a copy of gNewSense 2.2 or one of the other Free Software Foundation's blessed Linux distributions.
Get the idea? With desktop Linux, I'm free to choose exactly what I want. With Chrome OS, it looks like that while I'll get a better and more stable system than Windows 7 I run the risk of being locked into a Google software ecosystem that might potentially be as restrictive as Windows has been.
I'm not saying that this is how it's going to be, but I am concerned. I'll feel a lot better in a few months if I discover that the Google Chrome OS betas will let me run any Linux desktop application and programs running off any HTML 5-compatible Web site.
So, while I'm really excited about what Chrome OS may be bringing to the desktop, I'm not forgetting that with great power comes the possibility of great abuse. Hopefully, unlike Microsoft, Google will not abuse its users with its power.
Google Chrome OS