Dell Hops On Google Chrome OS Bandwagon

Amit Midha, Dell's president for Greater China and South Asia, told Reuters Monday that Dell wants to be a leader in the "unique innovations" that are coming to market in the next two to three years. Dell is working with Google to see where Chrome and Android fit with the "new form of computing," he said.

Midha chose his words carefully and avoided specifics, but this is the first time that Dell has been mentioned officially in the Chrome OS discussion. When Google unveiled Chrome OS last year the company said it would work with Acer, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and Asus in developing Chrome OS products.

Chrome OS is Google's bid to offer a simplified, Linux-based alternative to existing operating systems that revolves around Web applications and the browser. Google plans to launch Chrome OS in "late fall" and the first Chrome OS netbooks are expected to arrive in time for the holiday season.

For now, Google says it's primarily concerned with the user experience and getting Chrome OS optimized for the underlying hardware, so we're not going to see a flood of Chrome OS products any time soon. However, some system builders believe Dell's interest in Chrome OS could help Chrome OS to exert a stronger gravitational influence on Microsoft's Windows pricing.

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"OEMs have been lusting for leverage against Microsoft for years, and now they're thrilled that there's an actual competitor to Windows," said Todd Swank, vice president of marketing at system builder Nor-Tech, Burnsville, Minn. "At the very least, major OEMs are going to use Google to get better terms out of Microsoft."

Microsoft has acknowledged the threat that Chrome OS and Android pose to its business. "We clearly are concerned about Android and Chrome at the low end, and we will compete vigorously, particularly in the low end netbook space to make sure we preserve what we've achieved now with Windows," Robert Youngjohns, president of North American sales and marketing at Microsoft, said last December.

Microsoft rarely cuts the price of Windows, but it did so when Linux netbooks appeared and started gaining popularity. That move paid off quickly for Microsoft, but the software giant was quick to attribute the ensuing shift to people preferring Windows to Linux.

Despite the growing user friendliness of Linux client offerings like Ubuntu, Microsoft hasn't had to fundamentally alter its business to deal with the threat. But when Google gets Chrome OS up to speed on optimized hardware from OEMs, this could quickly change, according to Swank.

"Microsoft with netbooks has proven that people will pay for Windows over Linux. But with Chrome OS, which is Linux backed by Google, things may turn out differently," Swank said.