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Google Chrome OS Depends On Hardware Partners

Despite its focus on the Web -- a platform with proven appeal -- Chrome OS will also need compelling hardware to compete against Apple's anticipated tablet and Windows netbooks.
Gartner analyst Ray Valdes says that the commitment of Google's partners will be critical to the success of Chrome OS.

"They're in some sense putting their future in the hands of an ecosystem of hardware partners and it's uncertain how seriously the partners will take it," he said. "Is anyone betting the farm?"

Among several potential reasons pitfalls, Google's hardware partners may face competition from Apple's rumored tablet, which presumably will also provide access to Web applications.

Valdes says he wonders whether any of Google's hardware partners at participating in the Chrome OS effort to win more favorable terms in their negotiations with Microsoft.

Pichai wasn't ready to discuss whether Chrome OS would include a software monetization platform along the lines of Apple's iTunes App Store for the iPhone. But he did suggest that Google was considering ways to improve users' ability to find Web apps. That of course is Google's core competency: search.

Referring to Apple's public announcements about the growing number of apps in its App Store -- now over 100,000 -- Pichai observed, "The reason they can count is it's countable. On the Web, there are hundreds of millions of applications. Our job is to make those discoverable."

Valdes believes that Google already has a means of monetization to rival the App Store: The company's online tools for placing ads on the Web.

Moreover, as Google co-founder Sergey Brin said, and other company executives have repeated over the years, increased usage of the Web benefits Google. That's true not only in monetary terms -- Google serves most of the ads on the Web -- but also in platform terms. Increased usage of the Web ensures continued interest in the creation of applications using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and other Web technologies.

Valdes sees Chrome OS primarily as an attempt to reach consumers who want computer use to involve less hassle. He expects it to have minimal impact on enterprises, except to the extent that the consumerization of IT brings netbooks into the workplace.

InformationWeek Analytics outlines the 10 questions you need to ask to see where netbooks fit within your organization. Download the report here (registration required).