Google's Chrome OS Ventures Into Windows' Turf

Given the disruption Microsoft faces in many of its businesses, solution providers are expecting some sort of eventual response from the software giant. "If people start buying machines that don't have Windows 7 installed, that threatens the entire Microsoft stack," said Tony Safoian, president and CEO of SADA Systems, a North Hollywood, Calif.-based solution provider.

But cutting the price of Windows just isn't in the Microsoft playbook. It happens about as often as Halley's Comet comes around. A more likely scenario, says Kent Tibbils, vice president of marketing at ASI, a Fremont, Calif.-based system builder, is that Microsoft will stick to its Windows 7 model of offering a baseline starter version OS as an alternative to whatever hardware Chrome ends up powering.

Microsoft has not succumbed to pricing pressure in the past despite pressure from large OEMS and the system builder channel, notes Larry Piland, president of Datel Systems, a San Diego, Calif.-based solution provider. But if Chrome OS can succeed where previous Linux variants have failed, Piland says Microsoft would have to adjust its base Windows pricing.

At this point, though, that's a big if. "I think Dell is using this mostly as leverage against Microsoft to gain a more favorable OEM contract rather than gearing up to sell a small number of systems to the Microsoft haters of the world," said Piland.

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Dell wants to be a leader in the "unique innovations" that are coming to market and it's working with Google to see where Chrome OS and Android fit with the "new form of computing," Amit Midha, president of Dell's Greater China and South Asia business, told Reuters Monday.

Google says Chrome OS will launch initially on netbooks, but the implications are there for tablets as well. It's clear that Dell and other PC makers are gazing wistfully at the three million iPads Apple has sold in less than three months and are hungry for a piece of the action, and they see Chrome OS as a possible vehicle for getting it.

"There will be new hardware involved with Chrome OS, and Dell needs to explore it," said Tibbils.

Chrome OS is a Linux-based alternative to Windows that puts Web applications and the browser at the forefront of the user experience. Google says it's working with OEMs to optimize Chrome on OS on the underlying hardware, and the first Chrome OS netbooks are expected to arrive in "late fall" in time for the holiday season.