Google Chrome OS: Should Ubuntu and Canonical Worry?

Joe Panettieri, Former Editorial Director

November 19, 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?

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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About the Author(s)

Joe Panettieri

Former Editorial Director, Nine Lives Media, a division of Penton Media

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