Whoops! Bad market timing from Google.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


Google vs. Microsoft: Are you the winner?

Sept. 6, 2009

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, The Post-Standard

   Competition is a wonderful thing. Google is going to make a free replacement for Windows called the Chrome Operating System, and Microsoft wants you to keep using Office, rather than a free Google replacement, by making Office free.
   A free operating system? Microsoft Office for free? What's going on here?
   And, more to the point, what's it mean to you?
   Not much. You already have a free operating system that can replace Windows. It's called Linux. It's been available for years. People aren't busting down doors to put Linux on their PCs, so most of us probably won't care about a free operating system from Google, either. We're creatures of habit, and, for most of us, Windows is pretty much our habit.
   So I figure Chrome OS will be just a geeky thing. Google says some PC makers will put Chrome OS on tiny netbook laptops in place of Windows starting late next summer or early next fall.
   But guess what? Microsoft is coming out with a new version of Windows designed to work nicely on netbooks, too. I've been using a test version for a few months now and I like it a lot. This new version, called Windows 7, will beat Chrome OS to the market by almost a year. So, except for the few netbooks equipped with Chrome OS, all PCs will come with Windows 7 by sometime this fall.
   Whoops! Bad market timing from Google. But I'm not sure Google cares, because it's got another free product it wants you to use, Web software called Google Docs. You can do most of the same stuff with Google Docs that you do with Microsoft Office. By golly, it's almost as good as free version of Microsoft Office.
   Double whoops! Microsoft saw this one coming. Starting next year, you'll be able to get a free Web version of Microsoft Office, called Office 10. With Office 10's Web version, you'll be able to do all the same stuff that you can do with the regular version of Microsoft Office.
   Next thing you know, somebody will pop up with an alternative to PCs entirely, so you won't have to deal with Microsoft -- or Google. A company that can make computers that just plain work. No viruses or junk like that.
   Triple whoops! That's what Apple does already. Do you suppose Apple's got something of its own to spring on us?
   My guess? I don't know what it will be, but it's likely to be a big deal. Maybe a netbook laptop with a touch-screen keyboard, like the iPhone has. Sometime this fall.
   Whew! One thing's for sure, this is going to be an interesting year.