The significance of Chrome Book in a Windows world...

5yr ago if someone made a laptop without Windows on it everyone would just be laughing their heads off. Now they’re not. What has changed?

I think people are missing the significance of this machine. Yes there are netbooks out that are dirt cheap that run windows etc. but they are all atom based running Windows which tries to do EVERYTHING. When a machine tries to do everything it's never optimal. Which is why PC's for years have had to get faster and faster guzzling more memory, battery etc.. when lots of people want to do things that don’t take that kind of power. Lots of people would rather have better battery life or less heat than have the ability to do things that they'll never ever want to do.

So if you don’t play games why have a big GPU killing you battery? Or if you don’t run intensive tasks why have a clock speed of 2.4ghz? Why pay for an overhead that you don’t need? That is the thinking behind Chrome OS and actually it’s also the thinking behind IOS devices. Strip out the things that are unnecessary for a subset of users and optimize the experience for a core group. That is also totally opposite to the Microsoft/Intel way of thinking because they want users and OEM's to buy into the concept of one OS + processor that basically does it all. That way they get volume sales and build lock in that keeps their businesses afloat.

Chrome book started off by the realisation that a core group of users only use the browser. That’s the premise and that’s what they have been iterating on. They thought that if they could get rid of all the underlying OS stuff in Windows/Linux based OS's that isn’t concerned with running the browser then they could make their machines boot faster and run faster for the tasks the users were doing. Now they have got this thing running on ARM which provides even more lean experience, just like Apple have done with iOS.

Now we are seeing the fruits of their labour, brand new $250 dollar laptops that do what a core group of people want with over 6hrs battery life in a light weight product thats almost an impulse purchase. This thing will sell because for stores like Walmart and Currys its going to be easy to sell a cheap machine with a google/samsung brand that can do facebook / youtube etc.. And I bet its far more performant than the equivalent netbook running atom at the same price.

Steve Jobs said he didn’t make netbooks because he didn’t know a way to get a sub $500 machine to do anything as well as they wanted. So they made the ipad, cut down OS X and used ARM and they could play movies, music etc.. far better than any machine in the same price range with a full intel chip and OS. That’s the game right there. That’s what google have been trying to do.

Of course the big story is that html has enabled the dismantling of the microsoft monopoly. Which is the real reason google, facebook and now adobe have been going so hard with html/js even when it hasnt been performing like native. Without html we would still be running Windows XP or something crappy because MS would never have needed to react.

If anyone wants to debate how badly MS's court case in the late 90's affected them your seeing it right now with Chrome OS , iOS and Android. All the new money makers in tech have leveraged html because MS couldn’t embrace and extend it and MS couldn’t do anything about it for 10 yrs. In some ways its been MS’s own dhtml (i.e ajax) technology that has bit them on the arse! Without the court case MS would have made “their” version of html/js and we wouldn’t have iOS, google, even facebook. We just wouldn’t have this modern economy and choice right now.

I know that MS is still 90% of the desktop computing and that Windows 8 is coming to re-enforce MS’s dominance for the next millennium! So people say. Me, I prefer to look at trends rather than arbitrary points in time. I also look at context. And the trend and context tells me that there is no way we are ever going back to Windows dominance, rather we are seeing the opposite. MS market share and pc market share has been declining year on year for a while now and that is reflected in the MS share price. Even the markets don’t believe in the long term dominance of Windows.

The other reason we’re not going back is that no other players in the market actually WANT MS dominance. OEM’s have had their margins slashed so they don’t want it, Apple now have more money than most governments and they don’t want it either. Google need MS dominance like a whole in the head.. IBM never liked it, HP would do anything to get out of it if they could.. the list goes on. Too many people want MS cut down for MS to remain dominant. It’s almost political in reality.

I don’t think this is bad for MS or the tech market as a whole. Monopolies are bad for everyone because they make companies lazy and technology stagnant. The probably wouldn’t have made Windows 7 because they would never have needed to! It’s no coincidence that MS have produced some of the best work ever in recent times (Windows Phone and Windows 8) all because they HAVE to. Monopolies mean you generally don’t have to do anything because you have no competition.

For this reason I am thankful for the process of law and government in it’s ability to keep capitalism in check. Without the EU and US authorities foresight (regarding the MS case) we would have a far worse market for consumers than we do no.

Viva la Chrome book!