Google Android and Chrome OS: Next MSP Moves?

Yesterday, MSPmentor mentioned Google Apps' growing momentum with managed service providers. Today, I want to take a closer look at Google Android and Google Chrome OS, and the potential implications for MSPs.

No doubt, you've noticed the Google Android operating environment landing on a growing number of smart phones -- including the Motorola Droid. (Here's an early review.) Next up, Google is developing Chrome OS, another Linux-based operating system for netbooks and other computing devices.

Plenty of MSP industry players are taking note of Google's moves. I'm not suggesting that MSPs have to support Google's SaaS and operating platforms tomorrow. But the writing does seem to be on the wall.

Making Their Moves

Here's a quick sampling of who's doing what with Android:
  • Autotask LiveMobile currently runs on Android through a Web browser. Autotask also is evaluating whether to provide direct Android support too, according to CEO Bob Godgart. "Andriod also has this cool feature called App Wigets which might be an interesting way to send messages or notify a tech in real time that they have a new critical issue or notify then before they are about to miss an SLA," Godgart adds.
  • ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini confirms ConnectWise Mobile will support Android "very soon."
  • Kaseya is taking more of a wait-and-see approach. Potential Android support "Depends on market share and use," notes Kaseya Executive VP Jim Alves.
  • N-able is moving toward Android support but still sorting out timing. "The answer [on Android support] is yes, but when you ask?," says CEO Gavin Garbutt. "It is on the radar and as Android matures I am sure this will become part of SMB IT and part of N-central."
  • I've got notes out to additional software providers and will keep you posted.

Why Android?

So why is Android causing such a stir? The answers are pretty simple:
  • Plenty of folks are falling for Apple iPhone, but Apple's closed approach has some folks (like me) considering longer-term alternatives.
  • Windows Mobile has lost nearly one-third of its market share since 2008, mainly because Microsoft couldn't match the iPhone's App Store, according to this Wired article. Stated another way: Microsoft, the king of PC ISV relations, somehow overlooked mobile ISV relations. Ouch. Painful.
  • Now along comes Android -- which many pundits consider an open alternative to the iPhone. Sure, it's going to take time for Android to mature. But from where I sit, Android is the obvious iPhone alternative since device makers are desperate to (A) compete with Apple and (B) gain leverage and freedom from Microsoft.
Despite some mixed reviews, the Motorola Droid is enjoing swift sales. And I suspect Android-centric devices will gain popularity as more business and consumer applications land on the device. As a result, MSPs will need to respond with Android support over then next two or three years.

Next Up: Chrome OS

Meanwhile, Google is polishing another operating system -- called Chrome OS. Google announced the Chrome OS project in July 2009 with a simple blog entry that rocked the web.

Google is expected to preview Chrome OS, which is based on Linux, as soon as today. Most folks expect Chrome OS to target netbooks. As you may recall, rival Linux distributions (most notably Ubuntu) had considerable netbook momentum in 2008 and early 2009. But Microsoft gradually fought back with Windows XP and now Windows 7 on netbooks.

I think we're going to see the pendulum swing back a bit to Linux netbooks in the months ahead, thanks to both Ubuntu and Chrome OS's eventual arrival.

The Brand You Can't Ignore

Yes, Linux has had hit-and-miss results on desktops and netbooks. But even if Chrome OS has some initial shortcomings, I believe Google's brand could help Chrome OS succeed with device makers that are looking for even more freedom from Microsoft.

MSPs don't need to run out and support Chrome OS and Android today. But keep both of them on your radars. To me, they both seem like market disrupters.

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