Google’s announcement of Chrome OS is strategic, not merely yet another product launch, in a situation where Microsoft seems much weaker: indeed, Microsoft has to defend its OS PC marketshare of 88.2% as well as its incursion into the mobile space, with Google having its source of revenue in a totally different business.
The announcement that Google made about the Chrome OS in their blog (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/introducing-google-chrome-os.html) read: “Chrome OS is a new project, different from Android. Android was designed from the beginning to run on multiple devices, from telephones to set-top boxes and netbooks. Google Chrome OS is being designed for people who decide to spend most of their time connected to the Web, from small netbooks to desktops. Even if there are areas of overlap between Chrome OS and Android, we believe that the liberty to chose the OS will drive innovation in benefit of everybody, including Google”.
This vision is not entirely clear to everybody: third party developers have already adapted Android on netbooks (devices that were designed to always be connected to the Internet), and even Google has facilitated agreements with chip vendors to support Android on mobile PCs.
Indeed, i.e. two German engineers, Matthaus Krzykowski and Daniel Hartmann, decided to install Android into a Asus Eee PC 1000H netbook (http://blogs.computerworld.com/the_google_linux_desktop_has_arrived). And Qualcomm, member of the Open Handset Alliance, has already installed Android on their Snapdragon chipset (http://gigaom.com/2009/01/08/qualcomm-runs-android-on-netbook-chip/) for mobile terminals (like the G1) and for Mobile Internet Devices (MID).
So the difference between Android and Chrome OS is not that clear as first thought, and there is a degree of confusion in the industry; certainly given the fact that Google does not seem to want to intentionally cannibalize its Android (“Google Attempts Smart Phone Attack With Android System”, Bloomberg, 31Jul).
So why did Google decide to launch Chrome OS, the question is specially relevant because Google already has an OS (Android for mobile terminals), and because this last one started to be adopted by netbook vendors, which is precisely the market where Chrome OS is being positioned.
And we find the first explanation to clear out that apparent confusion in the possibilities offered by the markets, specially the market of netbooks within the one of laptops: even if the netbooks‘ market continues to be small when compared to the one of the mobile terminals (including the smartphones) and to the one of the more traditional laptops, it is the one with the highest growth, with a forecasted CAGR between 2007 and 2011 of 145%, compared with a 93% for the 3.5G mobile terminals, a 32% for the 3G terminals, and a 24% for the traditional laptops (cf. next figure).
We find the second explanation to clear out the apparent confusion between Android and Chrome OS in the business opportunity derived from the higher concentration of the laptops’ OS market (netbooks included) versus the higher fragmentation of the smartphones OS vendors. Indeed the regulators as well as the final users are positioning themselves increasingly against the main vendor: Microsoft (cf. next figure), giving way to a number of positioning advantages.
Lastly comes the fact that, while Android only supports ARM chipsets, Chrome OS will run on architectures based on both ARM and x86.
And, in fact, taking into account that 98% of the smartphones‘ market is composed of devices based on the ARM architecture, it’s no surprise to find out that Android has so far only supported that type of chipsets.
But if we look at the netbooks business, 90% of the market is based on x86 (Intel Atom), thus explaining why Google is thinking in making Chrome OS run on x86-based devices; notwithstanding, 55% of the netbooks‘ market is expected to be dominated by 2012 by ARM-based devices, and this explains why Chrome OS has to still support the ARM architecture (cf. next figure).
So the difference between Android and Chrome OS is now more clear. And what can surely be inferred from this analysis is that Google’s announcement of Chrome OS is strategic, not merely yet another product launch, in a situation where Microsoft seems much weaker: indeed, Microsoft has to defend its OS PC marketshare of 88.2% as well as its incursion into the mobile space, with Google having its source of revenue in a totally different business.