In case you haven't noticed, Google now has its well-funded mitts on just about every aspect of computing. From Web browsers tocell phones, soon you'll be able to spend all day in the Googleverse and never have to leave. Will Google make the jump to building its own PC operating system next?
What is it? It's everything, or so it seems. Google Checkout provides an alternative to PayPal. Street View is well on its way to taking a picture of every house on every street in the United States. And the fun is just starting: Google's early-beta Chrome browser earned a 1 percent market share in the first 24 hours of its existence. Android, Google's cell phone operating system, is hitting handsets as you read this, becoming the first credible challenger to the iPhone among sophisticated customers.
When is it coming? Though Google seems to have covered everything, many observers believe that logically it will next attempt to attack one very big part of the software market: the operating system.
The Chrome browser is the first toe Google has dipped into these waters. While a browser is how users interact with most of Google's products, making the underlying operating system somewhat irrelevant, Chrome nevertheless needs an OS to operate.
To make Microsoft irrelevant, though, Google would have to work its way through a minefield of device drivers, and even then the result wouldn't be a good solution for people who have specialized application needs, particularly most business users. But a simple Google OS--perhaps one that's basically a customized Linux distribution--combined with cheap hardware could be something that changes the PC landscape in ways that smaller players who have toyed with open-source OSs so far haven't been quite able to do.