As of today, July 6th, 2016, Microsoft quietly conceded that you can make Skype calls on Google Chrome OS. This is a huge development as running software like Skype has long been Google Chrome OS’s main limitation. In fact, it was the reason Chrome OS has been derided as non-starter in competing with Windows and Apple.
This was the very reason, that when Google released the Chrome Operating System in 2008, tech analysts collectively shrugged their slumped shoulders. It was a non event. ‘Google just released ‘a ridiculous beta browser that they call an operating system. And it can’t even run Skype!’ was the reaction in tech blogs. Not one blog I read had anything good to say about it. ‘Why would anyone want an Android operating system on a laptop??’ was another common reaction. No one predicted it’s demise because no one thought it would actually even make it through childbirth.
Fast forward to 2013, when Business Insider announced that ‘two of the three best selling laptops on Amazon were Google’s Chromebooks’. At that point people started to pay attention or at least to look into it. ‘How on God’s Green Earth could Chrome OS pass Windows and Mac when no one I know has one?’ was the reaction of my friends. ‘This must be a mistake’ another friend said. But the reason they missed the trend was because they were old. Or at least they were over 18. All the action was happening in primary, jr high and high school and under the radar of tech journalists and self appointed experts.
By 2015 Google’s Chromebooks make up half of US classroom devices including both laptops and iPads. The key market, youth, the education market has already fallen. See tobacco company data for the value of this market. How could Google have stolen the education market from a loved and entrenched company, ie Apple?
4 things changed.
1. The rise in the power of apps. Apps are doing what software used to do. Photo editing, filters, video editing are not only possible but have more intuitive interfaces and thus require less training. Click, swipe, save.
2. Consumer needs have changed. Just like few predicted the rise of ‘fast fashion’ and fall of French designers (classics) few saw the rise of Chrome OS. It’s a new breed of consumer with different habits and needs. Just like many will stick with high quality classics, and there is certainly a benefit to that, most go with cheap clothes worn for the moment. Good enough. Fashionable enough. Easy to update and change. Bang for the buck, they deliver.
3. Rise of mobile and the subsequent shift of programming talent to apps. Mobile = apps. Desktop and laptop = software. Until now. Now we have a laptop that is all apps and the market is pumping out endless awesome apps that make our lives easier to manage.
4. Security. It’s simply not possible to install key-loggers, malware, roofkits, viruses because you simply can’t install software. It’s physically impossible. So Chrome computer don’t need a lot of things other computers need. I’d go so far as to say that it’s the best computer for on-line banking or Bitcoin.
5. Internet speed and hardware advances. It’s a perfect storm. The modern iPhone is estimated to be 120,000,000 times faster than the onboard computer on the Apollo space mission. Times have changed. Mobile flies.
Although I have to say I called it early, if you scroll way way back on my Facebook, I predicted the Chrome OS would be the future. You have to scroll way back because it was about 8 years ago. I remember, Dave Lore, my friend in Hong Kong commented that he was going to keep an eye on my prediction.
But this is not my ‘I was right proclamation’ but it still kind of is lol. I’ll save the main one for 15 years from now. FYI, I don’t have a Chrome OS laptop and am not planning on buying one. (I want the new redesigned Macbook or possibly the Mi Laptop -to be unveiled next month… But I can see the train coming and when the technology is ready for the vision, I’ll jump on board.
As a final thought, I want to amend my previous pronouncement. It is possible that Chrome OS won’t run the vast majority of devices in 15 years. Google could mess it up somehow (I doubt they would blow a lead this solid) but, even if that were to happen, someone running their model will.
It could be a competitor no one sees coming. An app itself like WeChat. WeChat already functions very much like an operating system for users. Remember those pesky apps edging out software… They could possibly edge out operating systems themselves.