Microsoft Partners Yawn In Chrome's General Direction

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"Personally, I think it's just a lot of talk right now," said Todd Swank, vice president of marketing at Nor-Tech, a Burnsville, Minn.-based system builder. "Windows 7 has been such a successful launch that Google is probably just trying to steal some of its thunder by talking about Chrome OS."

Google says netbooks running Chrome OS will be available for next year's holiday season, but isn't talking about which OEM partners it will work with or how much Chrome OS netbooks will cost. Google's timing was no accident, as Microsoft spent much of this week talking about its Windows Azure cloud computing platform-as-a-service and how Windows 7 sales are enjoying unprecedented success.

By open sourcing the Chrome OS code, Google is making a splash and starting the wheels turning with would-be developers. But the road to application compatibility will be a tough slog, and until vendors start working with and supporting Chrome OS it can't be seriously considered a threat to Windows, says Michael Cocanower, president of Phoenix-based Microsoft solution provider ITSynergy.

"In light of the challenges that Microsoft has had in getting vendors to play along with their new OS releases, I can't believe that vendors will make any significant effort towards bringing Chrome OS into the fold," Cocanower said. "In my opinion, this is the biggest challenge Google will face with Chrome OS."

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Microsoft, for its part, isn't outwardly concerned with Chrome OS, although that would run counter to its obvious obsession with competing with Google in other business areas. "From what was shared, it appears to be in the early stages of development," a Microsoft spokesperson told in a carefully worded email.

Ever since Google unveiled Chrome OS in July, industry speculation has centered on whether Google has the wherewithal to finally bring desktop Linux to the mass market. With Chrome OS, however, Google will store most data in the cloud, and the netbooks on which it will ship will only come with solid state hard drives.

Google is also betting that demand will exist for slightly larger netbooks with full size keyboards, which fits with its stated goal of improving the usability of these low cost machines. Ultimately, though, Google will have to do more than other Linux purveyors have done to gain mainstream acceptance, according to solution providers.

"If Chrome OS works better, integrates more smoothly, and costs less, I think it will be a matter of time until it takes market share," said Daniel Duffy, CEO of Valley Network Solutions, a Microsoft Gold partner in Fresno, Calif.

"But my experience with all of these public/Linux-based type of things has been that they are good, but not great. They're more about trying to avoid paying Microsoft than about making a purely better product," Duffy added.