Google Chrome OS: Should Ubuntu and Canonical Worry?

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Google, as expected, has taken its Chrome OS effort and offered it up as an open source project called Chromium OS. As you may recall Chrome OS will target netbooks and other thin mobile devices -- core markets that  Canonical is pursuing with Ubuntu. Should Canonical be worried?

First, let me clearly state that I'm not pressing a panic button. Nine Lives Media Inc. (WorksWithU's parent) wouldn't have invested time and money in this web site if we didn't firmly believe in Ubuntu's future on mobile, desktop and server devices -- and in the cloud.

Back in July 2009, my initial blog entry about Google Chrome OS suggested that Google may wind up stealing Ubuntu’s thunder in selected market niches. Fellow WorksWithU Blogger Christopher Tozzi took the opposite stance, insisting that Google Chrome OS will help Ubuntu. But by August, I had changed my stance a bit telling readers that Google was both a rival and a friend to Ubuntu. I stand by that statement.

Update, 6:53 p.m. eastern time, Nov. 19: Reader Jef Spaleta points out that Canonical is actually assisting Google with Chrome OS. That's an important piece of information I overlooked in my original post here, and I apologize to readers for that omission.

To Canonical's credit, the company continues to build strong Ubuntu relationships with Intel and Dell. At the same time, we've seen Canonical focusing on interoperability between Ubuntu and Google Android (the smart phone operating environment). Could we be heading down a similar path with Ubuntu and Chrome OS?

Too soon to say. But here's one thing for sure: Google has mind share with consumers and the business press. Today's Google Chromium announcement has been covered by tech bloggers and big-name media companies alike. Canonical can't match that firepower.

Also of note: Google is producing slick marketing videos to explain Chrome OS's purpose and potential market position. Here's an example:



Is it just me or does the narrator sound like an Apple-type spokesman? Smart. Very smart.

Had Canonical bet its entire business on netbooks and notebooks I'd be somewhat concerned by the anticipated Chrome OS competition. But remember: Canonical has been striving to diversify its revenue streams.

Some people worry Canonical is stretching itself too thin by focusing on too many markets. Frankly, I'd be more worried if Canonical bet its entire business on one market.

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Discuss this Video 20

Jef Spaleta (not verified)
on Nov 19, 2009
Joe: A few additional pieces of information: 1) Canonical is being paid by Google to help develop Chrome OS. That's automatically a good thing for Canonical isn't it? http://blog.canonical.com/?p=294 2) Google is positioning Chrome OS for specific certified hardware configurations... not a general purpose operating system meant to be installed on a large selection netbook. Which means there's still room for Canonical to offer a competing vision as to what a netbook is meant to be used for.
Leo (not verified)
on Nov 19, 2009
Mmm, I am not sure I like that video too much, and I am not sure people "just ude a browser" as repeated to no end. This is an oversimplification, more focused on annoying MS than anything else. A declaration of "war", cyber "war", and guess what, we are on the same side as Google. I think the more significant thing is that Google is large enough as a company that they won't allow MS to bully OEM's to get them out of the market as they did with Linux in netbooks. So, this is a big positive for Linux, and Ubuntu/Canonical by extension. Once the field is open, a huge market will be there waiting for us.
Joe Panettieri (not verified)
on Nov 19, 2009
Jef: Looks like I've got a little egg on my face (or a lot?) for failing to mention that financial link between Canonical and Chrome OS. Thanks for pointing out that critically important point. I will follow up with a deeper blog tonight.
Leo (not verified)
on Nov 19, 2009
@Jef: you hit the nail on the head! That canonical blog post answers about everything we've been wondering, and really puts things in perspective. And yes, I agree that this a good revenue stream for Canonical (selling know how). Remarkably, Google went to Canonical, and not the more established Red Hat, for that. This is of course because of Canonical's clear desktop focus. Which is exactly why I keep saying Canonical should focus on that a lot more. It shouldn't be tough for Canonical to start deploying corporate desktops, provide support, the whole 9 yards. Teaming up with Google for this will only add prestige and name recognition to Canonical. Good move!
Fred (not verified)
on Nov 19, 2009
My feeling is that Google OS is the best possible sales argument to cause a massive launch of ARM netbooks, like EEEPC². And I would love to see affordable netbooks from main constructors on the market to install my favorite Ubuntu flavor on. I suppose many more like me will want to install a complete, local storage OS on their "Googlebook", so this could cause equally massive adoption of Ubuntu.
Jef Spaleta (not verified)
on Nov 19, 2009
Leo: its not remarkable that Google picked Canonical for a couple of reasons. First, its been established that Google has been using Ubuntu internally for a long while. If Google engineers like and prefer the debian packaging system and associated tools.. Canonical is a better engineering partner for them to to pick. Second, Red Hat is not a player in the retail OEM space at all. If Google wants linux engineering expertise that understands how to work with OEM partners concerning netbook issues.. Canonical can make a solid sales pitch there. They did help engineer HP's MI interface under contract. If Google liked the work Canonical did there, then it makes sense they would choose to work with Canonical. In fact Intel did the same thing with Moblin v1, partnering with Canonical initially on the Moblin platform development. Then Intel changed their minds with Moblin v2 and completely changing their distribution management. You want a cautionary tale about Canonical blowing a good partnership opportunity... try to understand what happened between Intel and Canonical concerning Moblin. Hopefully Canonical learned from the Moblin experience. And its not completely roses for Canonical. Google is not using bzr or launchpad for Chrome OS development..they are using git. This does not put Canonical in a strong collaboration position long term. It doesn't suggest to me that Google plans to rebase against Ubuntu frequenty or if at all. If they were, they'd be using bzr. If I were Canonical I'd be wary of Google hiring away specific expertise after the contract period is over instead of renewing the contract. A partnership with a short term financial gain maybe end up being a brain drain down the line. -jef
on Nov 19, 2009
Anything that makes Canonical worried is a good thing in my book. Ubuntu is not at all reaching its potential, and some real competition would help that. If Ubuntu can't rise to the occasion and compete with another open-source OS, that's still good. We'll just switch to the other OS. "In our discussions, Sundar Pichai and Linus Upson made it clear that they want, wherever feasible, to build on existing components and tools from the open source community without unnecessary re-invention." Using existing software instead of re-writing everything from scratch? But that's not the open source way! Open source software has to be abandoned, gutted and re-written from scratch in another language at least once a year.
on Nov 20, 2009
No.
Martin (not verified)
on Nov 20, 2009
After saying "all your data is stored on the internet" he should say "that kinda sucks"...
F. Fellini (not verified)
on Nov 20, 2009
I see the beauty in google os. From a business perspective create a tightly integrated triangle of the makers os/software, hardware, and network service provider. Every one has their independent incentives to make money not tied into partner blood sucking (say iPhone anyone). As for canonical providing help to google I think we all dig our own graves at some point in time. We just have to decide whether to do it with flair and dignity, or not. Canonical is a good sport and is creating a new category. I doubt that this is a competing category to the fat client which is what we all seem to want. They found a way to make the thin client idea work within the confines of stateless application, what can I say lets see where they go with this.
dragonbite (not verified)
on Nov 20, 2009
In one part I read that the system is going to be read-only with EVERYTHING being stored online. If this is true and remains true then I see this working out to some degree because Google Chrome OS will stay in its niche, but if people want to expand/customize/add then they could go to Linux instead. So I see less direct competition between Ubuntu and Google, and this makes some business sense now.
Google Chrome OS: Should Ubuntu and Canonical Worry? | (not verified)
on Nov 20, 2009
[...] Google, as expected, has taken its Chrome OS effort and offered it up as an open source project called Chromium OS. As you may recall Chrome OS will target netbooks and other thin mobile devices — core markets that Canonical is pursuing with Ubuntu. Should Canonical be worried? [...]
slumbergod (not verified)
on Nov 20, 2009
Of course not! Chrome browser is a nice idea and I have tried it but dislike it. It is too minimal and lacks the degree of customisation that I like. So I have no intention of switching from Firefox. Chrome OS is minimal. It isn't even designed for a desktop or laptop; it is for netbooks and mobile devices. It simply won't provide what most people need for everyday use. Of course, maybe Canonical will learn something from the experience...like how to make stable releases.
Links 20/11/2009: EVO Game Console is Out, Firefox 3.6 Beta (not verified)
on Nov 20, 2009
[...] Google Chrome OS: Should Ubuntu and Canonical Worry? Back in July 2009, my initial blog entry about Google Chrome OS suggested that Google may wind up stealing Ubuntu’s thunder in selected market niches. Fellow WorksWithU Blogger Christopher Tozzi took the opposite stance, insisting that Google Chrome OS will help Ubuntu. But by August, I had changed my stance a bit telling readers that Google was both a rival and a friend to Ubuntu. I stand by that statement. [...]
Google Chrome OS: Should Ubuntu and Canonical Worry? | Unixs (not verified)
on Nov 20, 2009
[...] Google Chrome OS: Should Ubuntu and Canonical Worry? Friday, November 20, 2009 By jfeedor Google, as expected, has taken its Chrome OS effort and offered it up as an open source project called Chromium OS. As you may recall Chrome OS will target netbooks and other thin mobile devices — core markets that Canonical is pursuing with Ubuntu. Should Canonical be worried? [...]
Henaway (not verified)
on Nov 20, 2009
Chrome OS = BIG YAWN. Pre-installed only, no local apps, no local data storage, big fail. Too bad. I hoped it would be pretty cool.
tom
on Nov 20, 2009
ChromeOS stinks. I like surfing the internet, but I like locally installed Apps too.
Jon (not verified)
on Nov 21, 2009
Lets think about this way depending if Chrome OS is based off Debian in any way you'll still be able to run thing natively supposedly, but company are open source, and they contribute freely to what they want. I'd bet that Google is helping Canonical in one way or another. It's just like When Google helped the Mozilla foundation get Firefox off the ground, and into the great browse it is today. It's a 2 way street. The only reason there is contracts is to keep this hush hush until the product can have it's big real. Personally I think that it's great ideal with netbook to keep things in the cloud for now, and keep it light and fast. Remember how functional windows 95, 98 was, and it was mainly a simple interface, and great features. May have it been poorly executed on MS's part. Most People complain how ling it takes to get going on Windows, and I'm one of them. Windows 7 is better, but not by much. The whole goal is to get to a usable desktop ASAP. Ubuntu, and most other Linux distros achieve much faster boot times than windows out of the gate, and one of the easiest distros is Ubuntu. That might be why the 2 are working together. It's going to be interesting to see how Chrome OS evolves over the next year or so, and to see the big reveal. GIVE it time, and see what happens. Yeah be able to get away from things being on your HDD, but it also makes security, and data storage Gogle headache not yours. Plus there will be ways to sync the cloud data with another PC or what not. Be patient I's still being DEVELOPED.
FreeBooteR (not verified)
on Nov 21, 2009
Windows users can have their Google browser OS. I'll keep my desktop OS thanks. Along with all my files, data, personal data, music, games, productivity software, etc. Let the slaves be controlled. I know i won't be.
Canonical: Profiting From Google Chrome OS? | Hallow Demon L (not verified)
on Nov 24, 2009
[...] wiping some egg off my face for not mentioning the Canonical-Google financial relationship in my earlier blog post. The fact that Canonical has a seat at Google#8217;s financial table is [...]
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