It’s been an exciting nine months since we launched the Google Chrome browser. Already, over 30 million people use it regularly. We designed Google Chrome for people who live on the web — searching for information, checking email, catching up on the news, shopping or just staying in touch with friends. However, the operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web. So today, we’re announcing a new project that’s a natural extension of Google Chrome — the Google Chrome Operating System. It’s our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be.
Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010. Because we’re already talking to partners about the project, and we’ll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve.
The Chrome OS is based on Linux and will run on both x86 and ARM microprocessors and Google claims to be "working with multiple OEMs to bring a number of netbooks to market next year." Google’s vision is of a Web operating system running a browser and running Web applications within that instead of traditional PC applications. As for overlap with Google’s Android operating system seen mostly on cell phones, here’s the official delineation:
Android was designed from the beginning to work across a variety of devices from phones to set-top boxes to netbooks. Google Chrome OS is being created for people who spend most of their time on the web, and is being designed to power computers ranging from small netbooks to full-size desktop systems.
Assuming that Google’s vision of a Web operating system and applications appeals to budget netbook buyers as much as shaving the Windows XP license fee, it will definitely impact Microsoft’s Client operating system business which has already been hit by netbooks running the low-priced Windows XP instead of Vista.
However, that is a big assumption since many netbook purchasers are buying them as cheap notebook PCs and expect to run the usual local PC applications (open source or otherwise). As for regular notebook and desktop PC buyers, it harks back to the Linux versus Windows competition for client PCs which so far has not been overly kind to Linux. Still, Google gets points for making things interesting for Microsoft and perhaps they will actually make inroads onto Microsoft’s turf.
Microsoft and TomTom, a maker of car navigation systems, today announced a settlement of their patent dispute which has broader interest because of Microsoft’s claims related to Linux:
Microsoft Corp. and TomTom N.V. today announced that they have settled the patent infringement cases brought by Microsoft before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington and the International Trade Commission (ITC) and by TomTom in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
The cases have been settled through a patent agreement under which TomTom will pay Microsoft for coverage under the eight car navigation and file management systems patents in the Microsoft case. Also as part of the agreement, Microsoft receives coverage under the four patents included in the TomTom countersuit. The agreement, which has a five-year term, does not require any payment by Microsoft to TomTom. It covers both past and future U.S. sales of the relevant products. The specific financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
The agreement includes patent coverage for Microsoft’s three file management systems patents provided in a manner that is fully compliant with TomTom’s obligations under the General Public License Version 2 (GPLv2). TomTom will remove from its products the functionality related to two file management system patents (the “FAT LFN patents”), which enables efficient naming, organizing, storing and accessing of file data. TomTom will remove this functionality within two years, and the agreement provides for coverage directly to TomTom’s end customers under these patents during that time.
While Microsoft has downplayed it in this case, those file management patents are the ones that raise the Linux infringement specter. The "open source community" will undoubtedly have a lot to say shortly much as they did over Microsoft’s Novell deal that Microsoft claimed recognized Linux infringement on their patents.
Microsoft and Novell want us to know that everything is going swell with the interoperability collaboration deal they announced two years ago. So swell, in fact, that Microsoft is kicking in an additional US $100 million:
Microsoft Corp. and Novell Inc. are announcing an incremental investment in their relationship to meet accelerating customer demand for their business model solution, which is designed to build a bridge between open source and proprietary software to deliver interoperability and intellectual property (IP) peace of mind for organizations operating mixed-source IT environments.
The investment focuses on enhanced programs from Novell to provide tools, support, training and resources for customers seeking an enterprise-class Linux* platform and specifically, the optimal interoperability solution between Microsoft Windows Server and SUSE® Linux Enterprise Server from Novell®. It also includes Microsoft’s commitment to purchase up to $100 million in certificates that those customers can redeem for expanded support from Novell that includes SUSE Linux Enterprise Server support and support for moving toward an enterprise-class Linux platform. The investments will take effect Nov. 1, 2008, and between now and then Microsoft and Novell will solicit customer input and identify aspects of the support programs that will be most useful to organizations running mixed-source environments.
Customer response to the Microsoft-Novell model has been significant since it began in November 2006. As part of the initial five-year partnership agreement, Microsoft purchased $240 million of Novell certificates to sell to customers. Within 18 months, Novell invoiced more than $157 million in certificate revenues, or 65 percent of the original allotment. Customers who have already taken advantage of this opportunity to seamlessly run both Windows Server and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server include Wal-Mart Stores Inc., HSBC Holdings, Renault, Southwest Airlines Co., BMW and many other leading companies around the world.
Joe Wilcox delivers an astringent assessment and observes:
For a company with net revenues of $232 million during its fiscal 2008 second quarter and profit from operations of $2 million, Microsoft’s 100 million bucks should be useful.
The deal allows Novell to exist in the shadow of Windows Server, sustaining on its table scraps. Microsoft can offer customers that simply must have some Linux servers a sanctioned source for good tools ensuring interoperability with Windows Server.
Of course, the real objection to the original deal by Open Source fans was the "patent cooperation" part of the agreement which Microsoft felt bolstered their assertion that Linux infringed on their intellectual property despite Novell’s statements to the contrary. It looks like the lovebirds have gotten over that honeymoon spat now and I’m sure we can look forward to more subsidies for Novell in the future.
Today at Computex, Microsoft Corp. announced that following the success of Windows on netbooks, the Windows offering is being extended to include nettop devices. Netbooks are commonly referred to as ultralow-cost PCs (ULCPCs) and were originally intended for students and other first-time PC customers in emerging markets. Nettop refers to desktops that are ultralow-cost.
I guess some head shaping for the PR staff went on after the April announcement which prominently mentioned Windows XP Home. Today’s announcement confusingly mentions only generic Windows except for one partner quote. So what’s the reason for the enlarged reprieve?
Customers are asking for Windows on these devices because the experience is familiar to existing PC users and easy to learn for customers who are new to computing. Customers want to be able to take advantage of the wide range of applications, devices and online experiences supported by Windows today. Microsoft partners also appreciate Windows-based solutions for these computers because they already know how to build and support high-quality systems that are powered by Windows.
And they can’t do any of those things with Vista apparently, presumably because of its considerable heft, and don’t want Linux sneaking in. One would also guess that the definition of ultralow-cost PC is subject to some negotiation.
So, here’s what the end of life plan for Windows XP currently looks like based on today’s announcement and the Microsoft Volume Licensing Brief, the Royalty OEM Reference Sheet, and the License Availability Roadmap:
- No XP retail availability after June 30, 2008
- No XP OEM (large PC manufacturer) availability after June 30, 2008 except:
- No XP volume purchase licenses after June 30, 2008, but volume purchasers and System Assurance subscribers can always downgrade to XP as long they have the appropriate media.
- No System Builder (smaller PC assemblers) XP availability after January 31, 2009.