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Skeptics will argue that Chrome OS isn't an operating system at all, and isn't that revolutionary. Perhaps -- but it doesn't matter. Google needs two things and two things only to increase its profits from here:
- More users on the Web.
- Existing Web users doing more stuff on the Web.
Chrome OS, if nothing else, is a forcing action; it forces Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) to take Web software more seriously, because Google has changed the conversation. We're now arguing over whether a browser can substitute for something as sophisticated as Windows or Mac OS X.
Developers appear to be considering the idea. More than 19,000 showed up at salesforce.com's (NYSE: CRM ) Dreamforce user conference last week, indicating a very healthy pipeline for Web-based software. Rackspace Hosting (NYSE: RAX ) , meanwhile, is using the cloud computing movement to build a more efficient business.
To be fair, Chrome OS isn't exactly digital altruism. Google has every intention of beating Microsoft as a netbook OS supplier. The hope, it seems, is to convince customers to switch from Word, Excel, Outlook, etc., to Google Apps. Former Microsoftie Don Dodge will help with the effort.
Even as smart and experienced as he is, I'm not sure Dodge can win that war. Fortunately, he doesn't have to. Where applications and OS revenue are fundamental to Microsoft, those things are supplemental for Google. That's the beauty of Chrome OS. The very act of picking this fight should get more of us on the Web, and that alone is a win for Google -- even if, as a product, Chrome OS is a loser.
But that's also just my take. Do you agree? Disagree? Sound off using the comments box below.