Would Google's Chrome OS spell more competition for Android than anything else? That's one of the possibilities looming for Google's browser-centric Linux distro, as on each closer inspection it looks that much less like a Windows killer.
Not that many people, Google included, ever believed that was the idea. By Google's own admission, both Android and Chrome OS are "flanking technologies" -- designed to be companions to the desktop and not replacements. Both are open source, but according to one rather jaundiced view of Android as an open source project, that means not a blossoming of possibilities but instead a splintering:
The open source community is much more likely, based on its history, to screw around with umpteen hundred variations that are piled willy-nilly on top of umpteen OS variants, creating a mess that only a few nerds will want to play with.
Does this mean Chrome OS is doomed to follow the same steps? It might not, actually. Google did a smart thing by aiming to have third-party Chrome (and Chrome OS) development be no more difficult than writing extensions for the web itself -- making it a lot easier to create for Chrome (OS) than for Android, and thus stealing some developer attention away from the latter for the sake of the former. At least until Google's long-distance musings about merging the two come to fruition, which could be years off.
The end user, on the other hand, ought to be benefit. Most people are not going to be forced to choose between an Android phone and a Chrome OS netbook -- they could very well have both, since they're provided through different markets and satisfy different needs. But there's far more of a market case for Android right now than Chrome OS; the latter could turn out to be, like the grossly overpriced and underpowered litl, a solution with no real problem. The only problem that might end up being solved is how to get dependable hardware support for end-user Linux. Answer: create branded devices that follow a strictly-defined spec -- something Apple's been doing for ages.
Even if the goal is not to replace the desktop, the desktop itself is becoming that much more portable in every form, more so with every passing quarter. By the time Chrome OS is released to a public already used to Windows 7 (and maybe also an Apple tablet device), what flanking will be possible?
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