Author(s): Raghu Gopal
Google's Chrome OS is a so-called thin platform that treats a Web browser as both the core interface and core intention of a computer. Chrome OS enables PC makers to create low-cost, single-purpose devices. For end-users mainly interested in access to the Internet, Chromebooks are finding a growing audience among individuals and educational customers looking for a streamlined, low-maintenance experience.
But the abilities of Chromebooks are beginning to expand. Google is nudging Chrome OS to become more of a traditional operating system through compatibility with Android apps. For most basic tasks, the tools are out there to get the job done.
Chromebooks began shipping a little more than five years ago and they have offered a bright spot of growth. According to Futuresource Consulting, the devices now account for over 50 percent of computers sold for use in schools in the US. This poses an immediate concern and a longer-term risk for Microsoft given that today's students will become the workforce of tomorrow. In response to this threat, Microsoft has introduced low-cost Windows 10 PCs and Microsoft Intune for Education.
For Microsoft, the market's growing comfort with the Chrome OS philosophy has been a concern and a response is warranted. Microsoft needs to react before the Chromebook creep becomes a torrent.
Microsoft's anticipated reaction could come in the form of a new version of Windows 10. What might be called Windows 10 Cloud is expected to have similar behaviour to Chrome OS, controlling on-device installation of applications.
As Google prods Chrome OS into Windows territory with offline applications, we expect Microsoft to acknowledge the growing success of virtual platforms with its response. A lighter version of Windows, which would only run Universal Windows Platform apps, would mean a safer PC environment, a compelling thought for educators, consumers and enterprises.
"Windows 10 Cloud" is market speculation at this point, but the noise makes sense. Google has hit a nerve in Microsoft's core.