Google announced its intent to get into the Operating System business with the upcoming release of Google Chrome in 2010. You can get a sense of all the premature gushing on Techmeme – journalists and bloggers one upping each other on when (not if) Google will each Microsoft’s lunch. The blog title award goes to TechCrunch: “Google Drops a Nuclear Bomb on Microsoft…”
Before we get into Enterprise 2.0 ramifications, lets get Enterprise 1.0 out of the way….
Chrome OS’ allegiance to the Netbook as a distribution platform is snooze-provoking in the context of the enterprise. As Dennis Howlett on ZDnet opines:
Even then and despite the proclivity among geeks for all things OS, when ChromeOS does emerge it will be a v1.0. No enterprise buyer I know will go within a country mile of committing its users’ kit to something at that level of maturity. Can you imagine the chaotic disruption this would cause in IT departments used to burning images and distributing a standard desktop?
Beyond this, broadband proliferation is the single biggest issue even if the IT department does come around to the idea of cloud based storage. Stacy Higginbotham at GigaOM puts forth a realistic question:
Can Google convince carriers, which aren’t big fans of the search giant, that selling netbooks with Chrome OS is the way to go? Most analysts expect carriers to become a huge distribution channel for netbooks.
If your data is in the cloud, accessibility needs to be 100%. And Netbook implies, pick up and go. That means rely on tethering your phone or ponying up the cash for wireless cards. For everyone. That’s already expensive for Sales reps, let the whole organization.
David Coursey of Linux World provides some great we’ve-seen-this-movie-before analysis by illustrating some painful lessons learned from when Linux tried to take on MS in the Netbook wars, and lost.
The Netbook is really Google’s attempt to find new advertising revenue sources and users, allowing it to mine all consumer data that it will store in its own cloud. Also, as Sridhar from Zoho opines, its a great value proposition for places like India where PC penetration is ~10%.
On to Enterprise 2.0
Assume I’m totally wrong and Netbooks are all the rage in the enterprise. Here’s one scenario that plays out:
Google packages up a Netbook with ChromeOS, Google Apps, Umbrella Analytics, Google Gears and and Wave-enabled Enterprise 2.0 capabilities. The full enchilada along with a developer platform to enable customization for specific use cases in the enterprise. Now that’s a software distribution model that in theory can give SharePoint bundled with Exchange, a serious run for its money. And that also speeds up commoditization of Enterprise 2.0 solutions.
But its all very unlikely for the foreseeable future.
First, given that ChromeOS doesn’t come out until 2010 and that IT departments are not going to throw out existing MS software and their laptops the next morning, Microsoft has plenty of time to counter.
Second, the true promise of an Enterprise 2.0 design will not materialize if your social software is not cognizant of /doesn’t enrichen what’s going on in your ERP, CRM and ECM-enabled business activities. So unless you’re comfortable with the farfetched assumption that all your other non Google powered business applications will also live in the cloud reliably, and will magically talk to each other, this is a non-starter. Oliver Marks has some other excellent comments on the impractically of this working out in the enterprise that are worth a read.
In some ways, Microsoft commanding the OS over Google may just be a gift for Enterprise 2.0 upstarts. As theoretical as the scenarios is that I’ve laid out above, it’s a pretty compelling blueprint for Google to work towards.
However, lets face it, a comprehensive silo breaking Enterprise 2.0 design is years away for most organizations, let alone one that’s powered by a 100% cloud solution. So in the meantime, Microsoft’s platform offering leaves room for others to provide more visually appealing, context aware social overlays to SharePoint. Something that Enterprise 2.0 providers such as Newsgator and Telligent have become very good at building upon. Even non .NET solutions such as SocialText have strong hooks into SharePoint.
Any more discussion on this topic right now is like asking a jury to call a case before hearing the defendant. Lets see what the complete picture looks like when Microsoft shows its’ hand next week.
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