Chrome OS and Chromosome


Techie world is mighty excited about google announcement of an OS of its own. People think it will give Microsoft a run for its money. A lot of analysts have described why chrome OS will suceed and a lot more have detailed how chrome OS will fail.

Most of the reasoning are based on the technological capabilities, user tastes, economic might and general trends. However, none of these take into account what is the most predominant factor in the success of any business – a company’s DNA!

I believe that a company acquires a culture and intellect of its own over a period of time, which is not unlike that of a plant or a living being acquiring some genetic traits through the generations. People may come and go within a company but the company retains some learnings even from people who leave, through passed on knowledge. It is not unlike a civilization, which evolves over generations – accumulating its own traits.

Now, applying that to Business, what we get are companies that have strengths and weaknesses that are cultivated over a period of time. These are very difficult to alter or change overnight.

How would we react if  GE announced it’ll make an operating system?  Did I hear someone say – Ridiculous?!

Well, why Google making an OS doesn’t sound equally absurd? Because it is a tech company trying to make a OS?

Well the difference between GE and google with respect to trying to make an OS isn’t as stark as it seems. While comparing GE and Microsoft may be like comparing a horse and a cat,  Google and Microsoft may appear to be cat and a cat?  I don’t think they are.

I feel Google and Microsoft are entirely different species of companies, with a different kind of upbringing and a totally different Eco-systems feeding them. Their food cycle is different. Their strengths and weaknesses are different too.

Lets look at Microsoft. It grew up in an ecosystem of interacting with OEMs (IBM being the first) providing the Operating Systems for its survival. Over the decades it has perfected the art of dealing with that eco-system. When Microsoft was born there was a vaccum in that space and over a period of time microsoft grew in to that space and marked its territory.

Google was born in an entirely different eco-system. It dealt with an end-user problem of finding information and later grew that business to other areas like finding mails, maps and videos. That’s what it thrives in.

Just as microsoft finds it very difficult to break into Googles eco-system, google too will find it very difficult to live in Microsoft ecosystem. The viruses will give them enough trouble and they’ll have to endure and develop immunity for that eco-system to thrive. That takes time and some companies simply give up.

So, what google is attempting to do is break into an OEM driven eco-system. OEMs are tough people to please. They have a different dynamics and like to offer differentiation in their offerings, instead of purely commoditizing the offering. So, some OEMs may even ship Google OS as a novelty.

But, to sustain in that space, Google will need to support the OEMs, customize its offerings to various platforms that OEMs will choose to bring to market. Work with OEMs teams to support post-release troubles. All these needs dedicated teams, that will need to earn their keep. Google will find that its an entirely different game and others playing that game for long time are better prepared to play it.

If  it can sustain a decade or more at it, it may be able to play that game, but it is likely that Google will dump what it did on community and it’ll become one more flavour of Linux out there, like Nokia’s Maemo.

This is not to say Microsoft won’t have a challenge to Windows. But, it may not come from any one OS. It may be a combination of them, which will do most things on their own way, but support the WEB , Flash &Video, which is what more and more customers will care about.