Why Windows RT Will Kill Chrome OS & Why It's An Excellent Thing For Google

While the world is focusing on Android, many may have forgotten that Google has another operating system called Chrome OS, which as its names suggests, has a lot in common with the Chrome browser.

If you've never heard of Chrome OS, I suggest that you read Stuart's excellent feature entitled Does Chrome OS have a future?

Google doesn't talk much about Chrome OS, and for a good reason. To say that Chrome OS has not been as successful as its sibling is a massive understatement. According to Netmarketshare, which publishes a monthly report on the state of the desktop Operating System market, Chrome OS is not even a blip on the radar. Chrome OS ranks lower than exotic operating systems like Nintendo's Wii OS or Amazon's Kindle.

I believe that there are at least three reasons why Google Chrome OS has not been as successful as expected. Price, Exposure and Education - why not read The One & Only Difference Between Chrome OS & Android OS - which explores the Android/Chrome duality. The Chromebook - which is a Chrome OS based netbook - was too expensive for what it offered. Users didn't get to see, touch and feel the Chromebooks and ultimately the concept didn't capture consumers' imaginations, or their credit cards. This was partly because the Chromebook pioneered some ground-breaking ideas that were, perhaps slightly, ahead of their time, such as no local storage and always-on connectivity.

Things are about to get more complicated for Chrome OS though, as Microsoft prepares Windows RT, which is essentially Windows 8 with a number of twists. First, it runs on ARM, which is the preferred platform for mobile devices. Second, it comes with full fat Office by default, not the skinny one with the ads and reduced functionality. Lastly, it ships with many features that are not dissimilar to what Chrome OS is offering. These include near-instant boot up, syncing with the cloud (SkyDrive and your Windows Live account) and always-on connectivity.

The arrival of Windows RT may spell doom for Chrome OS because of Microsoft's ability to garner massive manufacturer support when necessary (as has been the case with all previous Windows launches). Systems powered by Windows RT are likely to cost less than equivalent x86 based ones because they will likely share many parts (chipset, baseband chip, memory, flash storage) with high end smartphones and tablets, which helps push down costs.

The end of Chrome OS was actually predicted not long after it was announced, by none other than Sergei Brin, the co-founder of Google, who stated more than two years ago that both Chrome OS and Android would merge at some point in the future. Ending the Chrome OS hiatus will allow Google to refocus its development resources on one goal and one goal only, Android. The way things are shaping up, Android could swallow Chrome OS altogether by the end of the year to create a real alternative to Windows RT (and whatever the fusion of iOS and OS X will be). Could Jelly Bean (Android 5.0) be that milestone?