What ChromeOS Means For Netbooks And Why Microsoft Needs To Be Scared

JuggernautWhile you won’t be able to sense it at first, expect to feel a high frequency buzz from the direction of Redmond in the next few months. That’s the Windows 7 and Office group fearing the rise of a new juggernaut on low-cost computing hardware, ChromeOS.

ChromeOS may not be powerful, it may not play Far Cry and it may not run Microsoft Office but it’s a game changer. The underpowered laptops that limped along under Vista, XP, or 7 will fly under a new ChromeOS regime and thin-and-light laptops will fall below the vaunted $199 mark as the so-called “Microsoft Tax” – basically the small cost manufacturers pay for OEM licenses – disappears.

I’ve been saying for most of this year that Android will replace Windows Mobile as the “default” smartphone operating system. Thus far, if a manufacturer didn’t have their own OS or wasn’t in bed with a certain provider, they chose Windows Mobile. That operating system is still popular with a certain subset of user, namely users with lazy IT departments or computer owners cursed with the inability to download and install odd syncing software. Android will change all that.

The same will come to pass for lower-end hardware solutions, solutions where Windows or Windows CE were once standard.

My prediction is this: netbooks, as we know them, will come with ChromeOS as a boot option. Ultrathin laptops (think the Dell Adamo or the HP Envy 13) will come with Windows 7. Netbook configuration, then, will consist of entering your IMAP and SMTP info, a few social media credentials, and maybe uploading a picture of your dog as a background image. The rest – installing apps, buying games (other than Android/ChromeOS games), and running Microsoft Office – will be gone, thrust into the cloud.

I’m usually a pessimist. I’m not when it comes to something like ChromeOS. This is just what Asian OEMs are looking for – a respected software stack for their underpowered hardware.