First let me state the obvious. If Google’s new browser is successful then the desktop operating system just became a lot less important. This is great news for Linux.
That begs the question: If Google’s new browser isn’t even available on Linux, why is this great news for Linux? Because in a world where most people access their applications through a browser it makes little sense to have PC’s that are loaded with a heavy and bloated operating system. In particular in makes a LOT less sense for people to PAY for a heavy and bloated operating system. Count on seeing a Linux version of the Google browser very soon.
Michael Arrington over at Techcrunch said it best.
“When combined with Gears, which allows for offline access (see what MySpace did with Gears to understand how powerful it is), Chrome is nothing less than a full on desktop operating system that will compete head on with Windows.”
Most people are looking at the Google announcement as bringing much needed competition to the web browser front between Microsoft’s IE, Apple’s Safari, and Mozilla’s Firefox. This misses the bigger point. The real battle is about what the future development platform for mobile devices, personal computers, set top boxes, and more.
The last several decades of computing have been ruled by the owner of the development platform. Windows has been successful because the large majority of business applications and consumer applications ran exclusively on that platform. If you wanted to use an accounting application or automate your sales force you needed to run Windows software on your desktop to do it.
Internet applications are changing all of this by making the need for desktop specific code irrelevant. There is an entire generation growing up spending the majority of their time only using a web browser. They are on Facebook, their email is Yahoo mail or Gmail, they shop on Amazon, they use Google apps, they run web based instant messaging clients. That generation will just as easily spend their workdays logged into Salesforce.com or other hosted applications in the Internet cloud.
How does this relate to Linux? The future of the desktop client is moving towards accessing cloud-based applications in a browser through multiple devices and multiple mediums. Wireless phones, set top boxes, netbooks, desktop PC’s over a variety of networks is the future. The personal computer is not the future; it is hundreds of devices running on dozens of chip sets, with thousands of different components that is the future. This is a world where the personal computer starts to be priced and feel more like a cell phone and a cell phone looks more like a PC. In this world Linux is really the only answer. It supports every imaginable chip set. It is free. It can be custom branded. And no single entity can control it and thereby become a bottleneck to innovation.
Google’s vision is perfectly aligned with this world. They have made their browser open source and based on industry standards. They want to maximize the ways in which people can use the browser to create interesting and unexpected applications. They want to make sure that the doorway to the Internet, the web browser, remains free and competitive because for them the internet IS their killer application. Firefox has already gone far to this end and Google will inject even more energy into a competitive open browser. As long as more people use the web Google becomes for successful because search becomes more valuable for them.
Good for the internet. Good for Google. Good for Linux. Not bad.