Google's New Competition: Itself?

Aug. 31, 2011
If Google creates a Chrome OS for tablet computers, will that put it in competition with its Android operating system?

Google's launch of Android has resulted in many different versions of the operating system and numerous hardware devices that carry Android as the OS. What is next for the search engine giant?

Rumours have been circulating that Google is creating the Chrome OS for the tablet PC market. If that is the case, will Chrome replace Android on mobile devices? It seems reasonable that the desktop version of the Chrome OS could be adapted to better suit a tablet format with touch screen functionality. As a user of Google Chrome browser, I like the speed and flexibility but it does use quite a bit of memory. The Chrome tablet version of the OS would definitely have to be lighter so as not to consume the heavy resources that the desktop version does.

If Google Chrome for tablets is released, what would be the adoption from the major hardware players that have already adopted Android? Will they shift away from Android development? Probably not because their investments already run deep in this aspect. But many other questions remain:

Will users make the switch to a Chrome OS?
Will it be user friendly?
Will Google throw the same marketing and development effort into furthering the OS?
Will it keep Android?
Will Android be unified into one version?
Will the developer community accept the new mobile OS?
How long will the partner ecosystem take to evolve to the current Android market now?

What type of commitment can we expect from Google to further develop partners and programmers for their platform? After all, the app store available through the Android marketplace is diverse and well represented. How long would it take to build the same type of marketplace for a Chrome OS? This will all depend on adoption that starts with consumers and then will creep into the enterprise as we are seeing from the current tablet market now.

If Google continues with the Chrome OS, does it shift away from Android and risk losing all the users of Android now? Based on the sheer number of mobile devices using Android it is not inconceivable that there may be a backlash from consumers who would be asked to move from the smartphones to Chrome-based tablets. Then there is the issue of introducing a new mobile OS to the market. The key OSs that are already being used are QNX for Blackberry, Apple iOS, Windows 7, and Android. If Chrome enters the market, will it further muddy the waters for manufacturers trying to decide which OS to put on their mobile device?

Being an enterprise level provider with Google Apps and now Google +, will developers and companies adopt the new OS at an enterprise level? Will it hinder or help security efforts around corporate infrastructures and IT strategies? Will this give Google the chance to further entrench itself into the enterprise? As can be seen, more questions have surfaced than been answered. Time and adoption will tell how this will play out.

Dylan Persaud is Managing Director of Eval-Source, an analyst/consulting firm that offers enterprise software evaluation, cloud computing consulting, business process optimization and technology planning for organizations. He will be contributing regularly to IW's Technology newsletter.

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