Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Bam! Google Goes Right for Microsoft’s Gut.

rockyCan Google’s boldest attack against Microsoft succeed? Absolutely. Even if it flops.

The newly announced Google Chrome OS won’t show up until the second half of 2010, when it will first appear on lightweight netbooks. Eventually, it’s supposed to run on full-sized PCs. But Chrome OS will start working long before consumers start booting it up next year as it forces Steve Ballmer and company to open up yet another front in their long-running war against Google.

In its blog post announcing the move, Google (GOOG) explains that Chrome is supposed to address the shortcomings of existing operating systems: “Computers need to get better.” This could even be true. But what Google really wants to do here is vex its rival.

Google has been on this path for years as it systematically rolled out products that compete directly with Microsoft (MSFT) franchises: First mail, then a full suite of office software, then a mobile operating system, then a browser.

All of them are free or practically free. All of them launched without the full array of bells and whistles that their Microsoft rivals boasted. None of them produces any significant revenue for Google. And so far, mail is the only one that has generated mass adoption.

But all of them have succeeded just by existing: The chief aim here is to force Microsoft to defend its existing business, which makes it even harder for the company to attack Google’s search franchise. Now comes a full-fledged OS, the core of Redmond’s business.

As Techflash points out, Microsoft has been gearing up to roll out its newest operating system, Windows 7, as early as next week. That launch has already been a challenge, given that Redmond disappointed everyone with its last effort. And now Windows 7 doesn’t just have to compete with the ghost of Vista, but with the specter of an OS that doesn’t even exist yet.