Kevin Tofel on the Market for Chrome OS Netbooks

Kevin Tofel on rumors that Chrome OS netbooks are set to start shipping soon:

The problem: The mobile computing landscape has changed since that announcement, causing me to wonder if there’s really a need for Chrome OS devices, or if Android has already won the day.

The market has certainly changed dramatically since when Chrome OS was announced, and with iPad-fueled touchscreen tablet mania, there certainly seems to be a lot less enthusiasm for Chrome OS today than there was a year ago. But I wonder if it might not prove to be a sleeper hit for Google. Maybe the lesson from the iPad is not specifically that no-keyboard touchscreen tablets are the future, but rather that Apple has broken the logjam of thinking that all computers need to run a traditional OS like Windows or Mac OS X. There are certain use cases where a hardware keyboard is a necessity, and Chrome OS might scoop up that segment of the mobile market.

If you wanted me to bet, I’d wager that Chrome OS is not going to succeed. I think Android is Google’s best mobile OS — it ought to be able to do everything Chrome does because it contains a great WebKit implementation, plus it has a native app layer that already has developer momentum. But I don’t think it’s a sure thing that Chrome OS won’t find a solid niche. And the idea of making notebook computers based on Android seems to have fizzled out.

Friday, 5 November 2010