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Chrome OS -- Subscription Model


OK. I am back to writing. I was really busy over the past 3 weeks with social, personal and work commitments.


This is an article that I started writing on 25th April 2011. At the time of writing the article was based on rumors that Chrome OS will go the subscription basis. This is no longer a rumor - after Google IO. So re-writing the article now.

What is Chrome OS? Short Answer. A browser. Yes. It's the same browser that almost 160 million people use daily. So why would anyone use it as its primary OS? Well there are many questions and some questions are worth asking or debating. 

Browser

Modern browser has come a long way. From handing extensive Java Script or to rendering a feature rich graphical web page to handing 720P flash or HTML based videos to rending 3D games, the browser is capable on leveraging the hardware and GPU to deliver content to users almost instantaneously. It also helped the fact, that most browsers were based on a standard and most times, stick to the standard. It also helped the fact that the last 5-6 years, we saw a dominant browser for almost a decade loose market-share to make it a 3 way fight between browsers, enabling developers and designers to test their pages not on just one browser, but on different browsers and different versions of the browser.

Chrome

Chrome has come a long way in just 2 1/2 years. It's mantra of "Speed" has shaken the industry and also its competition. It has single handedly made every single browser to set their standard high to compete -- which definitely is great boon for users. Chrome is light, fast and less resource extensive then any browser out there. The beauty of Chrome is that the chrome team is not resting on its laurel either. With a release cycle of 8-12 weeks, it is constantly bringing in new features, enhancement and bug fixes with each release - slightly pushing the envelope to get things get done faster.

Google’s Attempt to create a revenue Channel 

Last year, Google started exploring the option of making Chrome as their OS. It wants to compete against Microsoft and at the same time, wants to open a new revenue channel beyond selling ads. At first, I was not sure why create a separate OS, when they have Android. Android can be scaled to be a full blown OS and the Chrome Browser can be scaled down to be used in their Phones.
But Google's take is different. They want to get to corporates and they want to do it with the same Velocity, Momentum and More "buzz" words used in the keynotes.

Can it work? Short answer. YES - If the price and terms is right.

Here are the reasons from my personal experience to believe Google has a shot to make some noise.

1. The infrastructure and tools are in place to make it happen - Faster Internet, Broadband Internet and Tools like Citrix and VMware are making in to mainstream user base. This is from my experience. I barely move away from browser on my machine. I have Microsoft Suite installed on my machine, but I barely use it. I use Google Docs. To get my work done, I log in to Citrix and there I have everything to get my work done.

2. Microsoft OS - Microsoft OS is great -- but I always feel that it's too heavy at times. I have Microsoft Windows 7 and from Power Button to where I can start working takes more than 30 seconds. The updates almost take a long time to download and finish. 

3. Microsoft OS is Maintenance nightmare - The cost for licenses and maintenance for Microsoft OS is huge. A windows 7 license copy costs more than 120$ for an upgrade. The maintenance at work to maintain the OS is huge. 

4. Apps, Apps and Apps - Apps are the key for ChromeOS. They need plenty of them and they need good web apps. A small app like Spring Pad or Ever note or DropBox is essential for ChromeOS to move forward

5. Security - With Sandbox security build in, the users are relied and there is essentially no risk to the OS. 

6. Drivers - The ability to recognize drivers are key for Chrome OS. So far, it seems that Chrome OS has definitely maintained a huge inventory to support devices. 

There are more positives for ChromeOS to feel good about and compete in Open Space.

However, there are downsides.

1. The machine that they are selling ChromeOS is costly. I would have preferred the price to be around $250 for the Acer model and $299 for the Wi-Fi Samsung model.

2. The monthly subscription terms and prices needs to be altered. I would have 3 options for the monthly subscription plan. 
a. They can keep the same $20 student and $28 business plans - but for 2 years rather than 3 years. 
b. They can keep the same $20 student and $28 business plans - but bundle it Google Apps for 3 years. 
c. The third option making the student option as $12 and the business options as $20 for 3 year term commitment 
 Now, that would rock! 
For business - remove the condition of 10 minimum machines. If you want 1 machine, you do qualify for the program. 

3. Make Support visible for User and business owners -- Google has never been transparent in terms of supporting their product. Even the Google Phone -- although sold on Google website was never really supported by Google. HTC supported the first Google phone as Nexus One was by HTC. Google needs to change that. Have an education class for Security Web Console training. 

Google has fired its first real Salvo at Microsoft. This is a new concept for Google and for Users. Does the user understand cloud? Will they trust Cloud? Will they trust security in Cloud, especially after the Play Station Network Security breach? These are all questions to be answered. Having ChromeOS makes Google strong -- a new revenue stream, more time spent on the Chrome browser by a user and most importantly -- the data, that Google so cares about. I strongly believe, that if Google stick to the product/model for a year or two - they will definitely find traction in services and maybe Google would have found their next billion $ product. 

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