Paul Buchheit is the man behind Google’s Gmail, a major contributor to AdSense, and the founder of FriendFeed, among other things. So it’s not surprising that tech media pounced on a tweet (via FriendFeed) by the ex-Googler that proclaimed, just a week after the launch of Chrome OS, that “ChromeOS will be killed next year (or “merged” with Android).”
Buchheit later poured a bit of salt on the wound in his FriendFeed:
ChromeOS has no purpose that isn’t better served by Android (perhaps with a few mods to support a non-touch display).
I was thinking, ‘is this too obvious to even state?’, but then I see people taking ChromeOS seriously, and Google is even shipping devices for some reason.
Paul must have received a good deal of negative feedback for his comments, and some of it must have indicated that Paul was coming off as anti-Google, because he felt the need to clear the air in a post at his blog. It’s titled “Four reasons Google is still Awesome,” and begins with Paul stating that Google is still the best company of its size and that he really enjoyed his time there.
His thought out eight paragraph post isn’t receiving the attention of his sub-140 character proclamation and while unsurprising, it’s a bit of a shame. Here’s a very brief run down of what you’ll find in the original post: Google is still awesome because they take risks, they’re willing to explore areas of development outside of their comfort (and success) zone, because they compete in positive ways, and they accept and consider criticism.
That last bit is important because Buchheit isn’t the only one with doubts about Chrome OS. Some high profile tech writers are sharing his sentiments exactly. I personally believe there is a niche for Chrome OS. Light weight (hopefully) low cost netbooks with always on 3G or 4G connectivity that rely on cloud storage are great for commuters and regular travelers but who’s to say such a device shouldn’t be running Android? Certainly the man behind one of Google’s most popular products has a better understanding of the issue than I do. He knows the company culture and his record shows that he knows what people want and need. At least his contribution to Gmail would indicate such.
But one of Google’s key advantages here is brand recognition and reach. And because so many of their products are incredibly popular with mainstream consumers, bringing them all together might make OS conversion a small step for many rather than a big leap, like the switch from Windows to Mac, for example. To be clear: I don’t advocate Chrome OS as a replacement for these desktop computing environments because it simply isn’t at that level–at least not yet.
Chrome OS feels like a portable OS, and until we see some solid integration with Android phones, a media content discovery and delivery service, and better web app tools (photo editing is one area of weakness), Chrome OS will be in competition with Android rather than other desktop operating systems. Even with these prerequisite features in place, Chrome would be fighting an uphill battle in that league. But that isn’t to say that Chrome can’t play. or even win in the right niche. With Google’s resources and position in the Market, I wouldn’t rule anything out.