So Chrome OS is cool and everything, but what is going to make people switch to it? Like most new user environments Chrome OS needs a killer app. As my cousin and his wife so adeptly pointed out – Google Docs suck and my regular computer can do everything that Chrome OS does anyway. Why do we care? And the truth is getting regular people to care is going to be a problem. Fortunately for Google there is a market that will be far more receptive to the Chrome OS business model and I was surprised it wasn’t touched upon during their press conference.
Small businesses. My wife’s Uncle Mike and I were just discussing a unique problem in small to medium sized business at my wedding this summer. They have all the technology requirements of a large organization with none of the budget to manage technology problems. Outside consulting is expensive and because those consultants are not involved in the day to day operations they can’t pop over to fix Jane’s laptop over lunch. Enter Chrome OS and the perfect target market for their product.
Imagine you are a small business owner and you have a number of field agents that are reliant on a laptop for field work. They don’t need anything complicated. Email, web, and SAAS (software as a service – think gmail for business) to get their job done. You don’t want them installing World of Warcraft or Bejeweled on company property. You don’t want them downloading the virus of the week and exposing proprietary client and company data. Enter a product that does all those things. Now make it cost $300 or less. Now make it so that if a field agent’s computer goes down they can be back up again in minutes. All their data is secure. Don’t want to fix the computer? No problem, throw it out. Let’s face it, hardware is cheap and fixing and maintaining hardware is expensive. Really expensive. This is where Chrome OS can kick some proverbial butt.
This is only half the equation though. If ChromeOS is successful it creates a lucrative secondary market for SAAS and provides an incentive for third party developers to write custom applications for businesses. This economic opportunity will have a reinforcing effect on Chrome OS in much the same way the iPhone and the Apple App store have a symbiotic relationship. Each is better because of the other. On a brief aside – can you believe that iPhone apps can only be developed on a Mac? I mean seriously? Apple controls less than 5% of the OS market and yet has the most successful app store? See what happens when you create a hardware environment that people want and don’t limit your users from software applications they want and need!
I boldly predict that Chrome OS will be successful because it is inexpensive, easy to understand, solves both consumer and business needs and provides new revenue models for software developers. I think that this will happen within thirty months. So set your bookmarks, mark your calendar and come back later to see how perfect my prognostications are. Now if you will excuse me I have to get back to overclocking my divining rod.