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Published: Thursday, 7/9/2009

Google mounts challenge to long-dominant Windows

ASSOCIATED PRESS

SUN VALLEY, Idaho - Google Inc. is hoping to gain greater control over how personal computers work by developing a free operating system that will attack Microsoft Corp.'s golden goose - its long-dominant Windows franchise.

The new operating system will be based on Google's nine-month-old Web browser, Chrome. Google intends to rely on help from the community of open-source programmers to develop the Chrome operating system, which is expected to begin running computers in the second half of 2010.

The early versions of the Chrome operating system will be tailored for "netbooks," a breed of low-cost, less powerful laptop computers that are becoming increasingly popular among budget-conscious consumers primarily interested in surfing the Web.

That is a direct challenge to Microsoft, whose next operating system, Windows 7, is being geared for netbooks as well as larger computers.

The vast majority of netbooks already run on Windows, and that is unlikely to change unless Google can demonstrate the Chrome operating system is a significant improvement, Forrester Research analyst Paul Jackson said. He pointed out that many customers had returned the original netbooks that used open-source alternatives to Windows.

"It was not what people expected," he said. "People wanted Windows because they knew how to use it and knew how applications worked."

Google struck a confident tone in a blog posting late Tuesday announcing its operating system. The Mountain View, Calif., company believes it can streamline the operating system to improve speed and reduce security threats.

"We hear a lot from our users and their message is clear - computers need to get better," wrote Sundar Pichai, Google's vice president of product management, and Linus Upson, Google's engineering director.

The two said the Chrome operating system will be fast, taking little time to launch, and will put users on the Web in "a few seconds."

Microsoft didn't respond to requests for comment.

The success of the Chrome operating system likely will hinge on its acceptance among computer manufacturers that have been loyal Windows customers for years, said Matt Rosoff, an analyst for the research group Directions on Microsoft.

"Most people, when they get a new operating system, they get it with their PC," he said. "I don't think most people think much about their operating systems."

If enough computer manufacturers embrace the Chrome operating system, it could weaken Microsoft while opening up new avenues for Google to persuade consumers and businesses to use its suite of online applications and other Internet services, generating more opportunities for Google to sell lucrative Internet ads.

But businesses will be especially reluctant to abandon Windows because, on average, about 70 percent of their applications are designed to run on that, Gartner Inc. analyst Michael Silver said.

Microsoft's operating system typically adds $50 to $100 to a computer's price, Mr. Silver said.



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