Google Chrome OS – Microsoft and Apple should be worried

It has been a couple of months since Google first demo’ed Chrome OS at the Googleplex in Mountain View, CA. Most of the reviews I’ve read have been rather bearish on the operating system from Google. However, I’ve come to believe that Microsoft and Apple, to a lesser extent, should be quite worried.

The basis for my argument is that most people are not computer savvy. The people writing reviews are generally technologists who test a lot of software and gadgets. These people are not representative of the general population. If you happen to be “the tech guy” in your circle of family and friends, you know what I’m talking about. As a technology entrepreneur and former software product manager, I’ve gotten my fair share of support requests.

Here are just some of the issues I’ve had to help with:

  • Spyware (don’t look at porn)
  • Viruses (really… stop looking at porn :))
  • Systems vulnerable – not updated
  • Can’t locate downloaded files
  • Can’t locate or launch newly installed programs
  • Can’t navigate between program windows

Many have been focusing on what is missing from Google Chrome OS. These missing features may be a strength and not a weakness. A simple browser based OS that is self-updating and relatively secure would solve 95% of the issues people contact me about.

Why Microsoft should be worried:

  • Recurring malware, spyware, and viruses – I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve cleaned a friend’s Windows computer only to have them let the anti-spyware and anti-virus software expire and have the same problem all over again.
  • It’s a pain to update Windows. Personally, I have a netbook running XP, which I only use about once a month. The time it takes to update this thing with all the security patches hardly seems worth the hour or two of use it gets.
  • Most people just browse the web, so why have a computer with more capability, when those capabilities create more maintenance issues.
  • More and more applications are web-based, eliminating the need for installed apps.

Why Apple should be worried:

  • While many people are frustrated with Windows, Apple is still expensive. Many potential “switchers” will give Chrome OS a try. Google could erode some of the low-end MacBook sales.
  • Google gets the cloud. Apple is trying, but MobileMe is still a disaster. Apple needs to catch up quickly, otherwise people will be more and more “married” to Google and their cloud based apps.

I don’t see myself abandoning a full OS anytime soon. I use Photoshop, development software, and a whole host of other software that doesn’t yet run well in a browser. That said, I’d certainly use Chrome OS on a netbook since it would 100% fulfill my requirements for an easy to maintain system for travel. For friends and family that need my IT support, once Chrome OS is available, I’d stop supporting them on their existing OS. I’d simply install Chrome OS for them.

Full disclosure: I own both AAPL and GOOG.

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