Chrome OS Not Exactly a “Death Knell” for Windows
After a bit of reflection, the Street is beginning to have its say about Google’s new Chrome operating system, and the consensus seems to be that while Chrome is obviously the company’s most direct assault on Windows to date, it’s not likely to be all that disruptive to the ubiquitous OS. “It’s not good news for Microsoft,” said FBR Capital Markets analyst David Hilal. “The real question right now is how bad can it be?”
Answer: probably not all that bad. As Yankee Group analyst Joshua Martin notes, Chrome is hardly a Windows killer. “The Chrome OS isn’t the final bullet in the war between Google and Microsoft, rather it’s merely a shot across the bow,” Martin wrote in a note to clients. “Google’s targeting of netbooks will reduce Window’s market share of this high growth category, but the effect will only be slightly greater than the introduction of Linux-based netbooks.”
In other words, Chrome will prove more a nagging irritant to Microsoft (MSFT) than anything else–at least initially. And while it will presumably increase the use of Google’s (GOOG) Web services and applications, it’s not going to be unseating Windows, the darling of enterprise, anytime soon.
Writes Bernstein analyst Jeffrey Lindsay: “Although the Chrome OS will initially be released for netbooks, Google indicated that it could eventually be used to power full-size desktop systems. However, it is unclear how much traction Google could gain in this market, as the Chrome OS would presumably not be compatible with Windows based programs. Instead, Google would need to rely on people to more fully adopt web-based services (a long-dated proposition), or for software developers to port their applications over to Chrome OS.”
And if that’s the case, it’s going to be a long time before we see Windows application compatibility, which is key to this particular battle. Until then, Chrome OS will perform about as well as Linux has in the netbook market, which is to say, not well at all. “It will take quite a long time for Google to become a competitor to Microsoft,” said Gartner analyst Michael Silver. “In the enterprise, for example, over 70% of the applications used require Windows. And even at home, things like personal finance still require Windows. So, while I think this is a longer-term threat to Microsoft, it’s definitely not in the short term.”