Google has selected a strategy for mobile and PC’s and they are sticking with it: Android is for mobile, ChromeOS for PC’s. This has never been more evident than today when at a Morgan Stanley conference, Google’s CFO, Patrick Pichette, expressed hopes that ChromeOS would become for PC’s what Android is for mobile, which means he wants ChromeOS to dominate PC’s in the future. But could that ever be true?
Never say never, they say. Right now it’s a little hard to believe something like that would happen, considering that while the web is occupying most of people’s time on a computer these days, many still need other native applications, usually for work, and even if there’s just one single application they need, that isn’t available as a web app, or isn’t as fast, then they’d rather use a Mac or Windows machine.
The trend is clear, though. Over the past few years we’ve seen more and more applications turn from native-only to web apps, to the point where there are indeed only a few of them left that haven’t been properly ported for the web. There have been some decent photo editors turned into web apps, for example, but they are nowhere near as complex as Photoshop. So at least the people who need Photoshop, probably aren’t going to use Chromebooks for work anytime soon.
But in the future, we could see companies virtualize a machine with Photoshop on it, and maybe somehow allowing multiple users to use different “profiles” of it in the same time, or just open it multiple times, and then allow its employees to use it through ChromeOS. Some enterprise apps are already starting to be used like this, and it’s why Chromebooks have real potential there, perhaps even bigger than in the consumer market.
But will ChromeOS really have the potential to dominate PC’s in the future, say 10 years out? Something like that is very difficult to predict reliably, but we can see that our machines, browsers and even Internet connections are becoming faster (gigabit speeds), and perhaps in the future they would be fast enough for any app, and there will be plenty of very advanced web apps by then, and ChromeOS could at least take a significant chunk of the PC market, especially if Microsoft keeps pissing off regular PC users with their unfamiliar Metro interface, and all the legacy cruft of Windows.
Google still has to ask themselves a very serious question, though: Wouldn’t they rather see Android become the ubiquitous OS for everything, including PC’s?