As with anything Google does, opinion ranges from revolutionary to lackluster. Personally, I think it's too early to tell. More importantly, I think the success of Chrome OS won't be based on the success of version 1.0. Google has the uncanny ability to generate and maintain interest even in the face of negative initial reviews.
Chrome OS will be limited to netbooks and, more important, new netbooks that Google approves. Chrome OS is theoretically competition for Windows and Linux, which represent approximately 80 percent and 20 percent, respectively, of the operating system market for netbooks. But Windows and Linux on netbooks allow a degree of user freedom that Chrome OS doesn't. Users can store files, be it pictures, songs, videos, spreadsheets, etc. on the netbook. These files can be loaded, edited and saved with or without a network connection.
[ InfoWorld's Neil McAllister reports from Google HQ the known details of the Chrome OS and Google's planned Net appliances. ]
Chrome OS, on the other hand, requires a network connection to access user files, which are stored in the Google cloud. This will be an impediment to Chrome OS adoption by average netbook consumers. Rational or not, the fear of needing to get at files "in the cloud" but not having a Wi-Fi/3G connection will diminish the allure of a netbook that starts in under 7 seconds to regular users.
On the other hand, geeks will be chomping at the bits to pick up a Chrome OS netbook to try out during the 2010 holiday season. Yes, the "geek" audience is without a doubt a niche market, so it's easy for Microsoft or Apple to write off Chrome OS. But that's a mistake. As John Gruber wrote in his excellent piece, "Microsoft's Long, Slow Decline":
People who love computers overwhelmingly prefer to use a Mac today. Microsoft's core problem is that they have lost the hearts of computer enthusiasts. Regular people don't think about their choice of computer platform in detail and with passion like nerds do because, duh, they are not nerds. But nerds are leading indicators.
Microsoft's losses to Apple aren't based on "regular people" choosing the Mac. Rather, these "regular people" were encouraged to do so by the geeks in their lives who had made the switch to a Mac years ago. Consumer technology vendors can ignore the alpha geek niche at their peril.
Truer words of caution couldn't be said to Apple, Microsoft, and Linux desktop vendors in the face of Google Chrome OS.
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p.s.: I should state: "The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions."