Everybody has been talking about Google Chrome this week. First they announce using a comic book on Labor Day (slow news day), then they launch yesterday and it seemed everybody and their family was giving it a try. Some have gone so far as to make it their new default browser. Some even uninstalled Firefox. Others, still, have proclaimed it to be a Windows killer.
So, the question is: can this thing possibly be a Windows killer?
First of all, why would they even say that? This is a web browser, not an operating system. The answer lies in realizing where we are going in the world of computers. I have said on this site many times in the past several months that the computer as a local experience is dying. The computer is becoming a mere terminal to the Internet, with more and more of our activities now taking place in “the cloud” (for those of you not familiar, the term “cloud” refers to the Internet).
Microsoft’s obvious dominance is only local to the PC desktop. Once you move to the cloud, Microsoft is no longer the dominant company. In fact, many would probably claim that Google is.
Google Chrome is obviously set up for web apps, and most obvious would be Google’s offerings. Chrome is a multi-task browser, with tabs each running as separate processes. A number of design changes present in Chrome make it much better suited to the use of software in the cloud. So, the argument is that Chrome can be a gateway to web software, making our desktop obsolete. Goodbye Microsoft, or so the theory goes.
It Isn’t An Operating System
The theory is sound unless you have even a basic understanding of the way an OS works and what it does. Chrome, like any other software program, requires an operating system. It is not, itself, an OS. It is simply a web browser. The fact that it provides a nice way to access web apps has not really changed the landscape, because we could all get to those apps just fine before Chrome.
Besides, it isn’t as if Microsoft didn’t see this coming. Bill Gates has long talked about a world where client/server computing would be the norm. Internet Explorer was supposed to be the gateway to that. Microsoft has also further blurred the lines of the desktop with the Xbox and the WebTV. Microsoft has, too, been very active in development of cloud services of its own. So, it isn’t as if Microsoft hasn’t been aware of this and, in fact, Microsoft is better poised to develop a better cloud computing experience than anybody because they also have the OS: Windows.
So, perhaps calling Chrome a “Windows killer” is just hype. Perhaps it is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the way a computer works. But, it is no Windows killer. In fact, it isn’t going to kill or even damage ANY operating system.
Chrome is a great web browser. But, it is just that – a web browser.
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