The launch of Google’s web-optimised Chrome operating system may have been hotly anticipated by some within the industry, but I’m not sure what value it brings to businesses, especially those looking to optimise their IT budget and performance.
As an advocate of the server-less office, and the numerous business benefits of cloud-hosted business applications, I can see Google’s rationale; creating a web only operating system to work exclusively in harmony with its Chromebook and its web applications.
This presents a very similar concept to the fiercely proprietary Apple, with its Apple operating system, iPad and iPhone, and seems to be the latest weapon in Google’s battle against Apple and Microsoft.
I don’t however believe Google Chrome OS brings anything particularly new to the market, and like Apple, Google has done a great job in tying users into using its hardware. The launch of this operating system would be of much more use to businesses if it had allowed users to run Chrome applications on any hardware platform, providing versatility and efficiency to businesses.
Chromebooks presently cost approximately £500, twice the cost of an average laptop and an expensive outlay for an SME requiring a complete deployment in order to use Google Chrome OS. Not only this but the harmonisation issues for the Chromebook include no access to company servers or direct printer access, and no access to many popular office applications.
In my opinion this offering presents no contest for Linux and Netsuite, which can be installed on an average laptop or PC and provide a speedy, efficient and simple to use range of business applications at half the cost.
Google itself is claiming that businesses spend on average £1900 a year on each PC, inclusive of hardware, IT support, OS licenses and security software. However, with many web-based applications on offer and the server-less office becoming increasingly popular, the set up and IT maintenance costs of other options are significantly reduced.
Cloud-based CRM, ERP, storage and email are turning the office server into a forgotten relic and condemning tape back-ups, VPNs, the IT department, downtime and outage to the annuls of history. Economies of scale and technological advances mean that for the first time, small businesses can afford to adopt world class products and services, cloud-hosted technologies which are secure, reliable and simple to use and install, such as NetSuite and Linux.
With these solutions already available, I find it hard to see where Google Chrome OS can dominate in a world which is increasingly moving away from proprietary OS/hardware models such as Apple. The increasing popularity of operating systems such as Android demonstrates that openness and versatility is key, particularly for businesses, which by their very nature require the flexibility these systems afford.
It remains to be seen whether Google has matched its target markets’ needs well enough, but I suspect that the Google OS will be more of a miss than a hit.