I once read that Bill Gates considered his greatest achievement to be the separation of hardware and software. He must have said it pre-2002 or so, as Google evidently has no record of it, so you’ll have to take my word for it (or ask him yourself). Then a couple of weeks ago, in the run up to Google’s the-end-of-the-Internet announcement, Eric Schmidt snapped at reporters who suggested that the success of Android made the ChromeOS strategy questionable. Mr Schmidt offered that ChromeOS is for a different category of devices.
This is why I was impressed by Android and baffled by ChromeOS. Android seems to me to be a huge step forwards for a sector that was fraught with fragmentation. ChromeOS, meanwhile, appears to be a backwards step – sure, it will be cheap (at least unless hardware OEMs succumb to patent claims on some of the underlying technology, which makes the Oracle-Google spat over Java all the more interesting), but still, as far as I can tell, a netbook running ChromeOS is a netbook that does less than the same device with Ubuntu, or, let’s say it – good old Windows XP.
And then, I saw this sign in Dixons in Birmingham Airport. They had a rack of the-computer-formerly-known-as-netbooks, only now, they’re apparently, “Web Browsers”.
Woah. This is probably about the first thing that makes me think Google’s efforts to blur the OS / browser distinction might bear fruit. If the whole category of device is classified as a web browser, users might not feel that an OS that is only a web browser isn’t such a lemon after all.
Worth noting that this was Dixons: DSG International, one of the biggest players in retail electronics in Europe (El Giganten, PC World, Dixons, Currys). Wonder if this name will catch on? And if so…what will us browser makes call our software?