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06:23 PM
Fredric Paul
Fredric Paul

What Does Google Chrome OS Mean To SMBs?

Google's plan to create a PC operating system poses a direct challenge to Microsoft, could shake up Linux, and does who knows what to Apple. For small and midsize businesses, though, any changes will be evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

Google's plan to create a PC operating system poses a direct challenge to Microsoft, could shake up Linux, and does who knows what to Apple. For small and midsize businesses, though, any changes will be evolutionary rather than revolutionary.Despite the fact that the search giant's new operating system won't start showing up for at least a year, the pundits are already scrambling to make sense of the announcement.

Don't Miss: New Google Chrome Operating System Challenges Microsoft Windows

Not surprisingly, most of the pundit class is concentrating on the free OS'sthe competitive challenge to Microsoft's dominance of the PC operating system market.

Others focus on how this new Linux derivative will further fracture the Linux situation, perhaps even helping Microsoft in the short run.

I haven't seen much Mac-oriented analysis yet, and I'm not sure there's an obvious story there. Macs have tied together the OS and the hardware so closely that it's hard to tease out one from the other. But if Chrome OS can eventually convince people that the OS doesn't really matter so much -- TechCrunch's Michael Arrington says: "All the OS has to do is boot the damn computer, get me to a browser as fast as possible and then stay the hell out of the way" -- they may be less willing to pay the Apple premium just for the fancy hardware.

As usual, hardly anyone is talking about what this could mean to small and midsize businesses. The first effect will likely come in a new series of netbooks powered by Chrome OS. While Linux netbooks haven't done so well to date, Google's star power could attract vendors and Web application developers to create a more attractive alternative to Windows-powered netbooks for SMBs. It might even be enough to get Apple to debut some sort of device in this class.

bMighty columnist Steve Hilton, VP of Enterprise and SMB research at Yankee Group, offered this opinion:

I love the idea of SMBs using netbooks and certainly the price-point is a ringer. But many SMBs are desktop application-heavy and multi-task with several applications at the same time. It's common for SMB employees to have Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook; some CRM solution; a browser; and IM running at the same time. This would make a netbook feel like a chihuahua running the Kentucky Derby. What's the answer? One size doesn't fit all for SMBs. If your company has critical business applications that aren't offered Web-based, you're best sticking with standard PCs. But more and more applications are on-demand so I recommend trying more cloud-based and SaaS solutions. Start with e-mail/messaging, HR applications, and CRM/SFA.
Longer term, as Google follows through on its declared interest to move Chrome OS beyond netbooks and onto the desktop, SMBs may see a trend toward lower-priced, less-powerful, desktops and laptops designed to work primarily with browser-based applications. That could mean lower hardware replacement costs, and a shift in software costs from purchases to subscriptions.

Whether or not that adds up to overal savings remains to be seen. But if it does, small and midsize companies should be in a position to take advantage of it before larger enterprises do, once again gaining a bit of competitive advantage.

Follow Fredric Paul on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/TheFreditor Follow bMighty.com on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/bMighty Put a bMighty gadget on your iGoogle page Get bMighty on your mobile device

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