Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Can Chromebook succeed?

Google frequently tests out new ideas, and quite a few of their ideas have long Beta test cycles. Common wisdom is that these products either aren't ready for market or Google is trying to get others to test them. There is definitely some truth in both of those statements, but these comments need to be explored in more detail.

As a case in point, I believe it was approximately 2006 when Google acquired the assets for Android, an operating system with a Linux kernel and a Java application stack, designed to be used with Smart phones. Google had an idea to run with this to make their products and services available to gadget users everywhere. Google modified both the Linux kernel and the Java application stack to create their version of Android, and got quite a few people in both areas all up in arms.

In the case of the Linux kernel, I am pretty sure that several of their changes have, in fact, worked their way back into the Linux kernel. They are too useful and important for that not to have happened. But Oracle had a number of concerns about the way that the Java code (and the name and license that go with it) are being used, and they filed a legal suit. Today, I saw a note that suggests that the case may go on for years unless both Google and Oracle change the way in which they are approaching the suit. At the present time, that delay would seem to favor Google, but Sun did have success in a previous legal suit against Microsoft, and Microsoft simply created C# instead. Could Google have a similar strategy, especially if this drags on? Perhaps by the time anything happens, Google will change the plumbing anyway.

But what about the Chromebook? Could Google have a similar strategy - a long term strategy, to assess the market for Cloud-based netbook (and other form factors) operating system? Could it be that the Cr-48 really WAS just a PROTOTYPE and a pilot project? Could it be that the Acer and Samsung models, which are only planned to be sold over the Internet, are merely test market vehicles to gain additional real world experience, and to further validate the ideas and marketing before creating an all-out, energetic marketing plan?

Some have speculated exactly what I just mentioned. It took from 2006 until 2009 before Google, Verizon Wireless, and Motorola came out with the Droid in a big marketing splash. It took another year for more Android products to come out. The Android is still developing itself in the tablet form factor, but is well established in the smart phone form factor. Could it be that this next year will be a trial period to see what works with the Cloud-based ChromeOS Chromebook?

I have reason to believe that this is the case. I believe that the younger generation, who carry around all kinds of devices, could be sold on a completely network-based system. They use them now in their smart phones and tablets.

Google has shown that they do not need to be the first ones out there in the market with a particular idea to do it right. Jolicloud and Joli OS have certainly beaten Google ChromeOS out, but the Joli OS is not an integrated hardware and software product; the Chromebook on ChromeOS is. The iPhone on iOS is too.

Do you think that Google is on the right track to experiment here? Do you think that Oracle is troubled, perhaps because they have been trying, on and off, for the past decade to create a network computer? Could Oracle and Google strike a deal at some point and finally make a network computer a reality?

What are your thoughts on any of these topics and questions? I would be interested in seeing another dialog on this one.

1 comment:

Brian Masinick said...

Many years later, we can see that there are indeed consumer versions of Chromebook readily available. We have two of them in our house, and we got them at an end of school year discount, the Lenovo N22 Chromebooks, at around $130 a piece, if I remember right.

Google also changed strategies and has offered a Pixel Chromebook, a high end model that at least sets the bar for "high end" Chromebooks, and may possibly pave the way for a similar strategy for high end smartphones, rumored to be about to offer a Pixel brand of phones as well.

It may be interesting to peer back in a year or two - or even a few months from now - to see what effect this strategy has in the smart phone market.