Google’s recent announcement of Chrome OS generated a lot of press, not surprisingly. As usual with the tech press, a lot it consisted of mindless hype or knee-jerk contrarianism, but several blog posts I read seemed to have a thoughtful, skeptical (in a good way) outlook.
Putting What Little We Actually Know About Chrome OS Into Context
Discussing the relative failure of iphone web apps to native apps”:
Mediati was right that not just developers but users wanted native third party apps for the iPhone. The difference from what Google is promising with Chrome, however, is that web apps will be the native apps on the system. Presumably all of the default applications from Google itself will themselves be the Google web apps we already know. It’s an eating-your-own-dog-food issue. What irked about Apple’s endorsement of iPhone-optimized web apps as a “really sweet solution” was that, of course, none of the iPhone’s built-in apps were web apps. They were all written in Objective-C with Cocoa Touch. Apple’s own iPhone apps set a high bar for user experience — a height that could not (and still can’t) be reached with web apps running in MobileSafari.
and countering the “oh, it’s another linux distro” meme:
Whatever Chrome OS turns out to be, it isn’t going to be that kind of “Linux”. They’re using the Linux kernel, yes, but they’re building something new and original on top of that. Linux is to Chrome OS what BSD is to Apple’s iPhone OS — which is to say something that users will never see, smell, or notice.
Google’s Microsoft Moment
On Google’s public perception:
when Google evokes Apple or Microsoft or Oracle in its style of communicating ideas, and when cell phone ads on TV say “Powered by Google”, an average consumer’s conception of Google essentially shifts to seeing this company not as “those guys who do the search engine” but instead as another consumer electronics company, like Samsung or Sony, but a little more hip.
This would be okay, except that I doubt Google’s internal self-image as an organization has changed to reflect this new reality. “We’re not like some giant company with flashy TV ads — we’re just a bunch of geeks in Mountain View!” And while that might be true for the vast number of engineers who define the company’s internal culture, the external impression of Google being just another tech titan like Microsoft will gain footing, making the audience for Google’s messages less tolerant of ambiguity and less forgiving of mistakes.
On taking criticism:
Worse, because most of the dedicated detractors of Google have been either competing companies or nutjobs, it’s been hard for Googlers to take criticisms seriously. That makes it easy to have defensiveness or dismissal of criticisms become a default response.
Why Googlers should read Anil Dash’s post
Matt discusses Anil’s post (above), and how our internal concept of Google can differ drastically from how people see us from the outside:
Many Googlers, especially old-timers, still think of Google from early days, when we were the underdogs in search. But many people outside the company perceive Google as a huge company with an outsized shadow. We can scare people, even when we’re trying not to.
Lots of good advice there, and some of the comments on that post are worth reading.
Why it doesn’t matter that you can’t run Photoshop on ChromeOS today
Abe counters the surprisingly common argument I saw in some of the crappier articles on the subject:
“I’m not interested in ChromeOS, since it won’t be able to handle heavy-duty programs like Photoshop.”
That might be true today, but it won’t be true forever (or even for long).
I read one article that said that nobody would use ChromeOS because it can’t run Office (can’t find the link right now). Then just last week, Microsoft announces plans to extend Office to the browser. Heh!