The Google OS: Are we saved at last?

The looooong-rumored news has finally come to pass, but will the Chrome OS make a dent in Microsoft's dominance or will it be another geeks-only thing?

Forget Michael Jackson, Sarah Palin, Roger Federer, Vladmir Putin, and everybody else. Today we have some real news: Google has finally stopped dorking around and announced it's going mano a mano with Microsoft in the operating systems game. Starting in the second half of 2010, you may be able to buy a netbook from a major OEM running the open source Google Chrome OS.

I had two immediate reactions to Google's announcement:

[ Reactions are coming in all over the Web. Find out what InfoWorld's Randall Kennedy thinks of the newly announced Google OS. | Stay up to date on Robert X. Cringely's musings and observations with InfoWorld's Notes from the Underground newsletter. ]

  1. It's about friggin' time.
  2. Let's hope Chrome the OS is a lot better than Chrome the browser, which was the buggiest Google product I've ever used. Nimble and innovative, for sure, but also occasionally maddening.

Also: If this is all just a joke, it will be the best prank Google has ever pulled.

Of course, an open source OS for netbooks (and eventually desktops) isn't exactly a Windows killer. If that were true, Jaunty Jackalope and all its furry Ubuntu cousins would have dusted Microsoft a long time ago. Remember also that Google has traveled down the OS highway before, and Android hasn't exactly made anyone forget the iPhone; personally I find it underwhelming. Finally, open source OSes appeal primarily to geeks because support ranges from problematic to nonexistent. That's not exactly a good fit with cheap consumer-friendly netbooks.

All that said, things around Cringeville just got a lot more interesting. And the entire geekosphere is kvelling about it.

Venture Beat's Dean Takahashi and Anthony Ha write:

The obvious goal here is to end Microsoft's monopoly, but Google says it wants to make computers better, so that people can access their email instantly without waiting for browsers to start or computers to boot. People should not have to worry about backing up their files or losing a computer. Nor should they need to configure software and worry about constant software updates. Of course, if Google can make computers more web-oriented rather than desktop software-oriented, that could be a boon for all of its web services, from Gmail to Google Docs.

Here here, I'll drink to that. And let's buy a round for the house.

AllThingsD's Peter Kafka says the Chrome OS will succeed even if it fails, because it will keep Microsoft busy defending its flank at the same time it's trying to shave a few slivers off Google's search engine market share. (Of course, Redmond could always counterpunch by offering up an open source Bing OS. If that happens, be sure to watch out for low-flying pigs.)

On the other hand, PCW's Melissa Perenson asks, "Does the world need another OS?"

My answer? Most definitely. Competition spurs innovation and (OK, Mac fanboys, brace yourselves) Apple simply does not provide enough of it. Ditto for Linux. There, I've just PO'd half my readers in two sentences. That may be a new record.

But does the world need another Microsoft? Definitely not. And the bigger Google has gotten, the more it has resembled the not-so-friendly giant looming to the north. Especially when it comes to the "trust us, we know better" mantra that seems to seep from its clever little pores. I suspect adding an OS to the mix won't do much to tamp down the hubris in Mountain View.

Unfortunately, we'll have to wait a year (at least) before things begin to shake out. It ought to be an interesting one.

Does a Google OS excite you, or is it just more of the same? Post your thoughts below or e-mail me:

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