There was already little doubt that Google was aiming at Microsoft's empire, but the announcement of a Chrome OS takes the competition to a new level.
For those who missed it, Google said late Tuesday that it plans to enter the operating system game in the second half of next year with a Linux-based OS that can run on both traditional PC chips and the ARM-based chips popular in cell phones. The idea behind Chrome OS is to create an extremely lightweight operating system that boots directly to the browser, in which all applications run.
In a blog, Google lists the advantages of such an approach.
"People want to get to their email instantly, without wasting time waiting for their computers to boot and browsers to start up," Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management, and Linus Upson, engineering director, wrote in the blog. "They want their computers to always run as fast as when they first bought them. They want their data to be accessible to them wherever they are and not have to worry about losing their computer or forgetting to back up files. Even more importantly, they don't want to spend hours configuring their computers to work with every new piece of hardware, or have to worry about constant software updates."
While it is hard to deny the appeal of those attributes, it's worth pointing out that some awfully big names have taken that approach and seen it fail.
Notably, it's the same pitch Apple initially made with the iPhone. There was no need for direct access to the phone's operating system, Apple said. Developers could simply write Web apps.
Even on the iPhone, developers and users demanded more.
That said, this is Google--and Google brings a considerably larger arsenal. With Google Gears, Google Native Client, and a host of other projects, Google is trying to blunt many of the browser's shortcomings, including the inability to fully tap local processing and storage.
This effort will take time, as Google itself acknowledges, but the company's full-frontal assault on Windows is definitely out in the open.
Obviously, this will be a fun one to watch. I've asked Microsoft for its take, and I hope to have more to say once I've had a chance to sleep on all this--literally.