The hype around Google Chrome OS is palpable. We all need to take a deep breath. In taking that deep breath, it becomes clear that Google has grown to become open source's biggest foe, while at the same time being one of open source's biggest friends. Confused? You should be.
Google helps the open source movement by contributing to various open source projects, funding open source summer development projects, sponsoring open source conferences, and simply by being a poster child for its internal use of open source. Google also open sources elements of its product portfolio in an attempt to gain market acceptance for a given product. Google Android, Google Chrome, and later this year, Google Chrome OS are examples of open sourcing to help drive adoption. For these reasons, it's easy to argue that Google is an open source friend.
[ See also: "Update: Google to launch open source Chrome OS this year" | Find out what InfoWorld contributors Randall Kennedy and Robert X. Cringely think of Google's newly announced OS ]
But it's becoming increasingly clear that Google deserves the "foe" badge when we consider open source vendors and organizations that are at the forefront of the open source movement. The Google Chrome OS, while based on Linux, is directly competitive with offerings from Red Hat, Canonical, and other Linux vendors targeting consumers. Google Chrome is competitive with Firefox, Google Docs is competitive to OpenOffice.org, and Google Apps is competitive with Zimbra. This list is certain to reach down into the middleware stack -- that is, Google App Engine of the future -- and up into the consumer applications stack with Google's ambitions.
Don't get me wrong -- competition is great for users as it forces all vendors to raise their game. However, we should not ignore the fact that Google has deftly become the largest threat to open source vendors, the same vendors who are driving open source adoption today.