Google's operating system escalates Microsoft duel (Update)

Google's operating system escalates Microsoft duel (AP)
In this April 17, 2007 file photo, exhibitors work on laptop computers in front of an illuminated sign of the Google logo at the industrial fair Hannover Messe in Hanover, Germany. Google Inc. on Tuesday, July 7, 2009 announced it is working on a new operating system for inexpensive computers in a daring attempt to diminish Microsoft Corp.'s longstanding control over people's computer experience. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer, file)

(AP) -- Google Inc. is hoping to gain greater control over how personal computers work with its plans to develop a free operating system that will attack Microsoft Corp.'s golden goose - its long-dominant Windows franchise.

The new will be based on Google's 9-month-old Web browser, Chrome. 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 , 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, said Forrester Research analyst Paul Jackson. 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 night announcing its operating system. The Mountain View, Calif.-based 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.

Microsoft hadn't responded to requests for comment through Wednesday.

Investors seemed to be betting on Google Wednesday as its shares rose $6.82, or 1.7 percent, to $403.45 in afternoon trading while shares in Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft fell 29 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $22.24.

The success of the Chrome operating system will likely 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.

Getting consumers and businesses to switch to computers powered by a new operating system won't be easy, as Google has learned from the introduction of Chrome. Google says about 30 million people are using Chrome, a small fraction of the Web surfers who rely on Microsoft's market-leading Internet Explorer.

Microsoft's Windows operating system has been even more dominant for a longer period time despite challenges from Apple Inc. and various systems based on Linux, the same type of open-source software that Google plans to use.

"It's going to be tough," Standard & Poor's equity analyst Scott Kessler said of Google's foray into PC operating systems. "The reality is that as the importance of a device or task increases, people have a much lower inclination to consider a change."

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

"This is going to generate a lot of hype, but it will probably be three to five years before it has any noticeable impact on the market," Silver said.

Consumers are likely to be more tempted to experiment with the Chrome operating system because it probably will decrease netbook prices even further. Microsoft's operating system typically adds $50 to $100 to a computer's price, Silver said.

Google has already introduced an operating system for smart phones and other mobile devices, called Android, that vies against various other systems, including ones made by Microsoft and Apple Inc.

The Android system worked well enough to entice some computer makers to begin developing netbooks that will run on it. Acer Inc., the world's third-largest PC maker, said last month it would drop Windows netbooks, saying Android would cut costs and likely help computers start up more quickly.

Google, though, apparently believes a Chrome-based system will be better suited for netbooks.

The duel between Google and Microsoft has been steadily escalating in recent years as Google's dominance of the Internet's lucrative has given it the means to threaten Microsoft in ways that few other companies can.

Google already has rankled Microsoft by luring some of its top employees and developing an online package of computer programs that provide an alternative to Microsoft's top-selling word processing, spreadsheet and calendar applications.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has been trying to thwart Google by investing billions of dollars to improve its own and advertising systems - to little avail so far. In the past month or so, though, Microsoft has been winning positive reviews and picking up more users with its search upgrade, Bing.

Now Google is aiming for Microsoft's financial jugular with the Chrome operating system.

Microsoft has drawn much of its power - and profits - from the Windows operating system that has steered most personal computers for the past two decades.

Google's chief executive, Eric Schmidt, and its co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, have not concealed their disdain for Windows.

Schmidt maintains Microsoft sometimes unfairly rigs its operating system to limit consumer choices - something that Microsoft has consistently denied doing. Google fears Microsoft could limit access to its search engine and other products if Windows is set up to favor Microsoft products.

Schmidt and Brin are expected to discuss Google's new operating system this week when they appear at a media conference hosted by Allen & Co. at the Sun Valley resort in Idaho. They had not arrived at the conference as other participants sat down to lunch Wednesday.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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User comments

Jul 08, 2009
It was about time. Hopefuly it will be better than Ubuntu.

Jul 08, 2009
Great News! Hopefully open source with financial backing of Google can save the World from monopoly of the damned.

Jul 08, 2009
Basically, it sounds like an ultralight Linux distro. I doubt there'll be anything revolutionary, but being backed up by Google, it should give quite a popularity boost for open source software. Well, so far, they haven't disappointed us, but keep in mind they're still a corporation. One way or another, money will come out of this. It's just that Google, unlike Microsoft, is a 'smooth operator'.

Jul 08, 2009
u guys are hilarious..... there is a good reason why linux never made critical mass....

... its the community that just prefers to be different to MS offerings and bragging rights are hard to let go of.....

Then there is the ol' "What have the Romans ever done for us?"

I am not a Vole fan by any means and have smashed more than my fair share of IT equipment in fits of rage.... tho last one was an old lappy that just wouldn't run SuSe without making me hate Linus. It had to go under the hammer.

And those who think Google will be any better in 20 years than MS... dream on...........

Jul 08, 2009
and another thing.... when I pull my RJ45 out of its socket.... MS doesn't know I exist and can still use MS office... try that with Google apps.

Or Chrome for that matter... do I want Goog knowing every single time I go online where I've been, my IP, the time and date, etc? ...of course bloody not.... I use SRware's Iron, without the ET phone home feature.

Jul 08, 2009
So long as I can still block ads I'm all for it.

Jul 08, 2009
Looks like a strategic move to position themselves for the day when/if cloud computing becomes the norm.

Jul 08, 2009
What are we going to do about games? :(

Jul 08, 2009
It's the same move that Netscape pulled when they envisioned cloud computing.

Problem is, MS went to court over it, lost, and still beat netscape into the ground.

Google won't knock MS off it's perch, only MS can do that.

You're right in that MS will not be knocked off its perch but Netscape/AOL hardly compares to Google in funding, capacity, brand, etc... throw in open source coding and you have a combination that can rival MS.

Jul 08, 2009
Porting is the key to embracing a new OS. Imagine not being able to use years of archives from your old OS. Not inviting.
said Matt Rosoff, an analyst for the research group Directions on Microsoft..."I don't think most people think much about their operating systems."

This guy is just nuts.

Jul 10, 2009
I don't get it why everybody connects Linux with Ubuntu. Ubuntu is just one distribution of Linux. People have so much choice of distributions. I use Sabayon, for example and I'm madly in love with it.

But people have to understand, Linux is not Windows and that is its strength. You have to learn how to do things in a new way, but once you've learnt it, I don't see why you would want to go back to MS. Only for games, but I think sooner or later games producers will figure out there is no need to waste clients and gaming will come to Linux too. Not that now you cannot game in Linux, it's just harder...
As for Google, I don't mind someone new getting into the game. M$ cannot continue to be a monopolist for ever. But personally, I'd stay with Sabayon Linux. I don't trust cloud computing and I'm not always in place where there is internet connection.

Jul 10, 2009
The fact that there are so many distros is part of why Linux isn't appealing to the masses. Most people like to be told what's good for them, rather than deciding for themselves. With MS they just have to come up with new visuals for the same piece of crap every now and then and people will buy it because it's 'new and improved, yet still familiar' and because they don't know any better and they don't want to know. Knowing hurts, you see. It's the same with most consumer products these days.
What Google is doing is being a top notch, flexible company that can spot good business opportunities. I don't care if they end up ruling mankind, as far as I'm concerned they'd deserve it.

Jul 12, 2009
You have to learn how to do things in a new way, but once you've learnt it, I don't see why you would want to go back to MS

I think it must be said that the nasty thing of linux is the missing dependencies message when installing or compiling some software. I am absolutely sure that is the reason why most people hook off after a while and return to microsoft. There were several times where I gave up on some open software because of uninstallable/unfindable/incompatible dependencies.

Jul 12, 2009
Linux software producers should do more static compilations where the dependencies are compiled within the software, then it is more like MS. Where a software installation will always work..... well almost always.
Maybe static compilations removes a bit of the power of Linux in the eyes of the all-knowing programmers, but it leaves the users that don't know nothing about OS's and don't want to know about OS's hooked to the OS.
The real issue is psychologically. Most linux programmers are like nerds, they say "how can you not know this" and "of course this is logic".
Their being so knowledgeable becomes an obstacle for success.
Most very smart linux programmers take things that are unlogic for users for granted. The power of ms is that they overcame this obstacle. They imagine a monkey behind a keyboard installing/using their software and act upon it.
I imagine they may even have a lab with monkeys somewhere.

Jul 13, 2009
It sounds like a revamped/scaled down linux distro, with a new window manager and hopefully a replacement for X11 ultimately. So Linux with a UI designed to be simple, fast, and easy to use... just like Chrome the browser. I doubt it'll be able to run too many applications natively, but that'll jive well with Google's Waves and other advances coming shortly.

I'm genuinely excited about this!

Keep in mind Macs are "just BSD with a good UI". Linux fails miserably in UI and hardware compatibility. If Google can overcome that, they'll have an incredible Linux-based OS, and hopefully they'll contribute some code that will help the rest of the community.

Jul 22, 2009
If it floats on the hot-air being generated, it will go further than some expect.

If is is just another Linux distribution, we may hope that Google's quality control procedures and user interface design will yield a better experience of Linux for many more people.

Tie this into the new hardware products, phones and netbooks, and you can see a real advantage coming to the consumers in terms of choice and price, which may then drive new solutions to resolve the problem that many (particularly outside America) feel about Microsoft ... it is too expensive.

Jul 23, 2009
I insist one more time.
Linux is absolutely marvelous.
What sucks is that the developers are nurds in only their field.
unfortunately there is no money to attract psychologists and ergonomists to investigate a user and tell the nurds what to program to act upon the issues.
We hope google can change that.

Jul 24, 2009
Developers contributing their time for free to assist in building products that subsequently provide competition to break a software monopoly.

Nerds, Spods and Geeks ... but Rebels with a Cause

(also, heroes for their individual contributions to a democratic meritocracy that is currently changing the socio-economic behaviours of education, business and employment)

A big thumbs up to the Linux developers. I hope that Google stands behind you, not on top of you

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