An app’s not an app, for all of that

Christmas often brings a new gadget or two under my tree. This Christmas brought me an Amazon Kindle e-book reader, courtesy of my spouse. While I work my way to the conclusion of my paper-bound tome of David Herbert Donald’s Lincoln, I already know that it would be an easier book to read at night in bed on my Kindle.

I have not yet succumbed to the smartphone mania, although I have played with the smartphones of others. I find them neat devices, at least when the wireless spectrum is not too crowded. Arguably, there would be times in my telephone-minimized life when one of these gizmos would prove useful. It would work as a great GPS, and I wouldn’t have to pay $70 to Garmin to get updated maps. I might find it convenient to answer email while mobile, although I have avoided Blackberries specifically so I do not raise the expectation with my boss that I should always be electronically accessible.

Smartphones seem to be much more about the Internet than about the telephone, and generally to do something useful with them you must download an “app” (application), many of which you must purchase. These apps are proving a boon to software developers, who need to pay bills.

I have been following Google’s Chrome for a while now. Many of us are aware of the Google Chrome browser, and it seems to be gaining market share at a fast pace. It is already clearly the number three browser, and most of its share of the browser market is coming at the expense of Internet Explorer. It’s important to distinguish between the Google Chrome Browser and Google Chrome OS, which is a lightweight operating system. Chrome OS is starting to come out of the labs and will soon be embedded into devices like notebook computers. The Chrome browser is available for a number of operating systems.

Just to make things more confusing, Chrome OS is a distinct operating system from Android, Google’s operating system for smartphones. As many of you know who own smartphones, Android and Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS own much of this market. Arguably, BlackBerry OS is the granddaddy in this market, although its devices have traditionally been focused around email. Microsoft as usual is trying to play catch up, and is currently rolling out Microsoft Phone 7 as its smartphone operating system, apparently deciding to give Microsoft Mobile the towel.

For smartphones, apps are a near necessity. Given the small screen size, you should not mind paying for clever apps that make the most of your smartphone. After all, if your smartphone had enough resolution to be a desktop computer, you would not be installing apps. You would surf to your favorite sites instead.

Or would you? The browser makers are now busy standing up app stores. Browsers like Firefox have a proud tradition of user written free extensions that add functionality to the browser. Many of these extensions are being remarketed as “apps” in Mozilla’s soon to be released application store. Arguably, a browser extension is not the same thing as an application. An extension, as the name implies, extends the functionality of the browser. An application, at least in theory, can live separately from the browser. You should not have to run the browser in order to run the app.

Rather, these apps depend on one or more frameworks. Ideally, an app will depend directly on the operating system to handle the messy things that operating systems do. They may also depend on the framework provided by the browser. Mozilla Firefox, for example, is a browser that works on multiple operating systems. Under its hood is a framework that application developers can build on top of that works regardless of your operating system.

By definition, you need to have your browser running in order to run these browser extensions. With apps, it is no longer required. It may be possible to write an app that uses the browser’s framework without needing the browser to actually display anything. Or an app can be written directly for the operating system. Just as Microsoft Word is written to work with Microsoft Windows, Chrome apps are starting to appear that will work directly with Chrome OS.

All this background is necessary to understand where this is leading. Mobile-friendly operating systems in particular are making browsers less important as independently running apps provide a richer experience. This trend is now bleeding over into desktop and laptop computers and endangering the browser and the world wide web.

So why did Google create its own browser called Chrome in the first place? Could they really create a better browsing experience than, say, Mozilla Firefox? Perhaps, but differences in the usability of browsers in general are becoming irrelevant. Some are marginally faster or slower or offer better or fewer features. The Chrome browser is being marketed so heavily that it is hoped that you will accept it and get used to it. With Google products like GMail and Google Docs, you will also get used to having your electronic life “in the cloud” rather than on your personal device. Eventually you may replace your Windows or Mac machine with a lightweight device running Google Chrome OS. When you will do, you will be encouraged to install various apps, many for free, many for money, to do things the snazzy Google Chrome browser cannot do. (This may not be readily apparent if the apps live inside of the Chrome browser, but the effect will be true nonetheless.)

This will in turn tie you closer to Google, its software services and monetize a stream of money toward Google and third party developers, all through apps provided in its store. The result is that you will end up paying more to get content, much of which used to be free. In addition, the browsing experience may be less valuable, as service providers like Amazon spend more of their time and money tuning content to work with applications rather than a browser. If an app takes off the way other viral software did, say, like Visicalc did in the early 1980s, the only way to get content may be through the authorized app, rather than through a browser.

The World Wide Web as we have known it may be ending, as content moves toward being used through apps rather than a browser. The companies that succeed in the apps market hope to be richly rewarded. The Internet, as a neutral platform for acquiring information, may be less useful or, in time, disappear into marginal relevance. Instead, you will need an app to do it. You may find, for example, that to make your flight reservation with Southwest, you must use its authorized app, for which they may charge you a $10 a year annual fee.

Think twice before paying for an app or buying a device running Google’s Chrome OS. You may be locking yourself into proprietary networks, thus balkanizing an Internet where open accessibility has been its strongest feature. My new fancy Amazon Kindle is locked into Amazon’s network. Now I can buy any eBook I want, as long as it is in Kindle format, and therefore as long as I buy it only from Amazon. (Note: Kindles also can show PDF documents, but they are not as easy to read as an eBook.)

The beginning of the end of Microsoft

It did not make many news reports, but on May 22nd something remarkable happened. Apple Inc. became worth more than Microsoft. The worth of Apple shares totaled $222.12 billion. Microsoft shares totaled $219.88 billion.

Why is this so important? Clearly for as long as most people can remember, Microsoft’s value out shown Apple’s by many order of magnitudes. Also, Microsoft technology is pervasive. You really have to look hard to find a business that does not have its information technology centered on Microsoft. In spite of this, and Apple being hardly seen in the business world, Apple is worth more.

How can this be when Microsoft Windows is on ninety percent of desktop computers, and its pricey Microsoft Office software is the de-facto business-standard? The answer appears to be that Microsoft has peaked. Its products are lackluster and generally boring. Apple on the other hand is now a brand with sparkle. Its iPhone, for example, is the pricey but niftiest smartphone on the market. Its newest product, the iPad, which left me unimpressed, is being snapped up across the world. Apple always had a reputation for having cool products. Particularly since the iPhone was released, Apple now has a product that is no longer niche but widely used by people at all income levels. Even if AT&T’s service leaves something to be desired, people marvel at the cleverness and usefulness of the pervasive iPhone, and take that as a sign that other Apple products are the same way. When the time comes to upgrade home computers, many are now happily paying premium prices for the Mac.

Microsoft’s strength has hitherto been playing copycat and offering similar but not as great products with the official Windows seal on them. Its Windows operating system began as a blatant rip off of Apple’s graphical user interface. I have to think hard to find any Microsoft product that is truly innovative. Its Microsoft Office suite is not. It’s success, like Internet Explorer, was due largely to its ability to bundle it with its Windows product. Why should a company buy Lotus 1-2-3 separately when they could get Microsoft Office preinstalled with their PCs? If I had to pick an innovative Microsoft product, I would pick its Xbox gaming console. Even there, Microsoft was hardly first in the game box market.

Microsoft remains a very profitable company, but reading its tealeaves should be making Wall Street reach for the Pepto Bismol. With the introduction of Windows 7, revenues are up substantially this year as businesses refresh their Windows operating systems. Yet, like most of their operating system upgrades, they did not get it right until they went through an unsuccessful introduction of another Window version, Windows Vista. Much of Microsoft’s revenue stream comes from customers paying premium prices for just so-so products: Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office. However, both of these products have serious long-term viability issues.

Although Windows 7 is being well received, it is unclear whether ten years from now we will still want Windows at all as a desktop operating system. After all, Windows is proprietary. Open source operating systems have been available for a long time, and certain desktop Linux variations are entirely free. These have not caught on, but the Google Chrome OS might, once it is formally introduced this year. Particularly on lower end machines like cheap laptops and netbooks, computer manufacturers are going to find the combination of the free cost of Google Chrome OS along with its rapid boot up and swift loading time to be compelling reasons to use the operating system. If nothing else, a model with Chrome OS will cost less than the same model with Windows on it. Microsoft may find itself discounting the price of Windows, or maybe even making it an open source product so it does not lose too much market share. In either case, the profitable and reliable Windows OS revenue stream looks precarious.

On the Microsoft Office front, things look better for Microsoft but perhaps not forever. Google Docs is a sort of Microsoft Office-lite product that is free and lives in its Internet cloud. Right now, most people will not prefer Google Docs to Microsoft Office, but for personal use, Google Docs is free, whereas Microsoft Office requires spending at least a couple hundred dollars for a license. You don’t have to be particularly smart to imagine that the well moneyed Google will work hard over the next decade to up its Google Docs feature set so that it will work faster and be more functional. It is already pushing Google Docs for business, allowing businesses to offer similar functionality to Microsoft Office for a fraction of its cost. For businesses that need the basics and don’t want the hosting hassle, it’s good enough and quite a bargain. Microsoft Office is the other major component of Microsoft’s profits. Drive a stake into it, or just dilute its market share and shareholders will be hollering.

Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Outlook rule the business email universe, but in a decade, this can change as well. Exchange is pricey, needs beefy servers and is hard to administer. GMail has proven to be reliable and as quick as Exchange/Outlook, plus there are no hassles with hosting GMail and no desktop software to install, maintain and patch.

Microsoft’s server and entertainment lines are profitable, but make up only a small percentage of their profits. Others, like their online services, currently do not make a profit, although Microsoft claims its Bing search engine should soon be profitable. It’s unlikely though that Bing will ever overtake Google’s search engine.

The general problem for Microsoft is the same: lack of innovation in general and always playing catch up with the more agile players in the IT world. At what point does the desktop become obsolete because most of the work is being done in the cloud? When that time arrives, the handwriting will be on the wall for Microsoft.

Things are not guaranteed for its agile competitors, of course. Google and Apple still have to show they can continue to be innovative. Given their records of accomplishment the smart money is on them, and was borne out recently in Apple’s share prices. Microsoft stockholders might want to petition Bill Gates to return as CEO and software architect. During Gates’ reign, Microsoft steadily advanced in both sales and market share. It is unclear though even if Gates could be convinced to return to Microsoft whether he could change the dynamics at play.

It appears that Microsoft is being slowly being bested. It won’t disappear entirely, but in ten years it may be but a shadow of its current self, perhaps where Apple was in relation to Microsoft ten years ago. If I owned a lot of Microsoft stock, I would make it a goal to sell about half my stock over the next five years. While it may lose market share, it will still be profitable for quite a while, just not as profitable as it could be. I would begin putting my money into more agile and promising companies instead.

Google Chrome needs a bit more polishing

For about three months, I have been taking Google’s Chrome browser out for an extended spin. What I am discovering is that while there is a lot to love about Chrome, it has some usability issues that annoy me.

As I noted three months ago, you have to love Chrome for how fast it is. It both loads quickly and renders web pages quickly. Although a new browser, it has proven to be much more stable than my browser for the last seven years, Mozilla Firefox. My instability issues with Firefox may have a lot to do with poor engineering of the many user created add-ons that I have grown accustomed to. Arguably, Chrome is better engineered for both stability and speed. One way it does both is by assigning one computer thread to each open tab window.

Three months ago, add-ons (or extensions as they call them) for Chrome were relatively few. That has changed dramatically. You can find equivalent extensions for most of Firefox’s voluminous add-ons, often written by the same developers who created them for Firefox. In some cases, they lack the maturity of the original Firefox add-on. The Firebug extension for Chrome, at least as of this writing, is just Firebug-Lite, which has maybe fifty percent of the features of the full Firefox add-on. If I need to peer deep into the document object model of a web page to troubleshoot it, I am using Firefox with the Firebug add-on. Still, most of the extensions I care about are already there, often in many subtly different flavors. These include Web Developer, an XMarks bookmarks synchronization tool, Web of Trust (which lets you know of suspicious sites), a Web to PDF converter, a webpage screenshot tool, a tool that automatically converts text links into real links, Chromed Bird (a really sweet Twitter extension), a Weather Underground add-on and a Yahoo Mail Notifier. Doubtless, I would find many more “must have” extensions if I spent more time trying them out.

You would expect Chrome to have a tight integration with the Google Search Engine, but it is not yet smart enough to act like Firefox’s Awesome Bar, which intelligently tracks your most frequent queries and finds them by typing a few characters on the URL field. Similarly, Firefox’s Bookmarks toolbar (where your bookmarks conveniently rest on a window on the side of the browser) is so much more usable than Chrome’s “Other Bookmarks” button and navigating through the multiple levels of bookmarks to get to the bookmark of choice.

In addition, Chrome could use a real menu system, so you can easily get to every feature. (You do get one with the MacOS version because MacOS requires it.) Say you want to open a local file or print a web page. You can click on the “Control the Current Page” button and get to it there, but it is counterintuitive and breaks the standard desktop computing metaphor. Instead, I clicked on the “Customize and Control” button (the little wrench icon) expecting it would be there, but it wasn’t. I sure would also like to be able to add a print button to the toolbar, but if there is a way to do it, it is not intuitive.

I understand why Google made these major changes. They wanted to maximize the extent of the browser window on the assumption that content is what really matters and every pixel counts. The reality is that using a browser requires an intelligent tradeoff between viewing web pages and swiftly navigating to (or finding) where you want to go, and that requires real estate for more controls. Chrome made too many compromises and broke too many metaphors in pursuit of its Holy Grail of making the largest possible browser window.

To understand why they became so anal, you have to remember their long-term vision. They want to kill Windows, and if they kill MacOS as well, they will be even happier. Their vision of the future is that everyone is carrying around a netbook running their ChromeOS operating system which will boot very quickly and immediately dump you into the Chrome browser. All your applications would be web applications that run inside of Chrome. In the netbook world, almost everyone is accessing as a wireless device and they are likely to be keyboard challenged as well. They want to wrest our minds away from the PC metaphor of menus and task bars into something new and compact, behaving more like an intelligent cell phone or iPad. Chrome aligns fine with their Chrome OS vision, but while we live in the Windows/MacOS world, the disconnect is quite jarring. It’s like sitting in a Prius and looking desperately for the slot for the ignition key. In short, right now it’s just weird.

Having said these things, Chrome is so smoking fast that a lot of the time I don’t care. If I just want to search the web to visit a few favorite sites or want integrated access to their search engine, it excels. It’s just that I’ve gotten used to having my browser do all these other tricks. Making Chrome do them as well is going to take time. I suspect Google’s engineers will get us there if we are patient.

At work because I have an extensive collection of bookmarks for obscure places I need to go to quickly in order to do my job, the small latency and instability in Firefox is a small price to pay versus the speed and counterintuitive ways that Chrome works. At home, where my needs are more modest and I have MacOS, I use Chrome. Meanwhile, feeling the heat and losing market share to Chrome, Mozilla is trying to speed up Firefox by imitating Chrome by placing each tab in a thread. Unfortunately, it will take some time implement it, as it requires a lot of reengineering. If they do it quickly enough, I may continue to stay with Firefox indefinitely. Given that Google’s pockets are far deeper than Mozilla’s, I am not too hopeful.

Taking Chrome for a Spin

Does it really matter which browser you use? So many of us spend our lives in a browser that it is reasonable to think the answer is yes. Nevertheless, all browsers pretty much do the same thing. Once familiarity sets in, you have to have a compelling reason to move from one browser to another.

In 2004, I ditched the world’s de-facto browser Internet Explorer for a weird upstart browser called Mozilla Firefox. It was an easy switch. It was true that back then, thanks to Microsoft’s proprietary extensions to HTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) that things would not always behave the same way in both browsers. Six years later, I still have to use Internet Explorer on a few sites, because the application has not been updated to use web standards. This is now largely a past memory. Unless you need some quirky feature like HTML 5 compatibility (which most browsers are racing to address anyhow) most of the rendering oddities are in the past. Not that a few don’t still bite us. Last I checked, Internet Explorer still did not allow rows in HTML tables to dynamically collapse through Javascript.

For six years, I have been satisfied with Firefox, and generally happier with each new release. I loved all the free plug-ins that were available. The latest version of Firefox (3.6) that I recently downloaded introduced personas. These are sort of like themes for the blank spaces around the edge of your browser. It’s pretty neat to look at, but it’s really window dressing, just like the wallpaper on your computer’s desktop. What matters the most to me is usability. Simple tends to be better.

Firefox’s weakness the last year or so has been its instability. It crashes a lot for me on both Windows and the Mac. This could be more annoying than it is, for you can at least restart it quickly and it will remember your open windows. Firefox also suffers from new version syndrome. Once every few weeks it wants to install a new minor version of itself, sometimes with new features, but mostly to fix bugs. As annoying as new versions are, it’s a straightforward and quick process. It’s better than Internet Explorer, which even though it claims to have excellent security is rife with bugs that require all sorts of mostly behind the scenes patching. IE wants to keep you in the dark about its bugs. Firefox is in your face with them by patching them so quickly.

Since I have a Mac, I also have Safari, which I use from time to time. It’s pretty nice, and there actually is a version of Safari for the PC, although it looks quite a bit different on a PC. There are lesser-known browsers out there like Opera (proprietary and not necessarily free) and Konquerer (for Linux boxes). Now there is also the official Google browser called Chrome. Chrome is part of Google’s grand design toward a web-centric architecture. Its operating system Chrome OS, which I wrote about recently, is taking wings and will soon be appearing on fine netbook computers.

I had installed the Chrome browser but had never really put it through its paces. I did so over the last long snow-congested weekend. After a couple hours, I was hooked. I will still need Firefox for quite a while. If Firefox can be made as fast and stable as Chrome, I would gladly drift back to Firefox. I must say though that Chrome’s speed and stability are both very compelling. I didn’t need Firefox to come out with a persona feature. What I need is a browser that is a lot like my Mac: I don’t have to think about it. It should just work. The best browser is like a sheet of glass. It renders the page of interest transparently, cleanly and correctly. Chrome just takes you where you need to go quickly and with (so far) none of the quirky rendering issues that plague most browsers. Through delivering high backwards and forwards compatibility, Chrome seems to have filled the niche. No wonder that Chrome’s browser share is climbing rapidly, mostly at IE and Firefox’s expense.

Clearly, it is not as feature rich as Firefox. The bountiful plug-ins that are available with Firefox for the most part do not exist with Chrome. However, some Chrome plug-ins do exist. My suspicion is that a good part of the Firefox plug-in community is already working on Chrome compatible plug-ins. As a web developer, I need the amazingly excellent plug-in called Firebug for Chrome. I sure hope it is being ported, although Chrome comes with some built in developer features that are quite decent.

The average user will just notice Chrome’s rendering speed, which tends toward blazingly quick. I had no idea so much of the slowness in Firefox was just its code trying to make everything look pretty. Of course, if the Internet is slow or congested, no browser will speed it up, but whatever Chrome is doing to render content quickly it is doing very well. It helps to have very deep pockets. Since a lot of our content comes from Google, Google can do a lot to put its content on the edge of the network so it will download quickly.

Simplicity and too much intimacy with your favorite browser have a downside. It would be nice, for example, if Chrome would refresh the page by pressing the F5 key, which I have used for the last 15 years. (Instead, it is Ctrl/Command-R.) It would also be nice if my bookmarks would appear on the side, as in Firefox, by pressing Ctrl/Command-B. I also like Firefox’s search box in the top right corner, although by integrating the URL field with search engines you arguably have a simpler interface. Perhaps those features will show up in time. Maybe it would be better if they did not. Simplicity also has a certain virtue. Most of us prefer cars that are simple to use. Too many gizmos and gadgets on the dashboard can make for a confusing experience

Here is hoping that the folks at Mozilla address the instability and page rendering issues so I can go back to it. I hate to give any monolithic company, even one as friendly as Google, all my loyalty. Still, Chrome is compelling in a way IE never was. If you try it for a couple days, you are likely to find yourself also hooked.

Google’s Chrome OS aims to drive a stake in Microsoft’s heart

You may not have noticed, but Google seems hell bent on a strategy that it hopes will ultimately kill Microsoft Windows. Many have tried but so far, none have succeeded in toppling the behemoth desktop operating system. Google’s ultimate success in toppling Windows will depend in part on its success convincing people to move their data from their desktop computers into “The Cloud”.

For those of you who are not terribly tech savvy, “The Cloud” refers to the Internet in general, but more specifically to the many data servers attached to the Internet that hold personal and other data for us. You may already have much of your personal data in the cloud and not know it. For example, if you use GMail (Google’s email service), your email is hosted by Google somewhere within its cloud-computing infrastructure. Chances are even Google would have a hard time telling you exactly where your email is stored. It is probably redundantly stored among its hosting centers. Redundant hosting helps ensure that your data is always available.

In fact, there are plenty of vendors outside of Google enamored with “The Cloud” and Microsoft is among them. For example, recently Microsoft announced a stripped down version of its Office Suite for The Cloud. You may not even have to pay to use it, providing you are okay with its limited features, advertising and trust that Microsoft will forever store your personal data. Microsoft is playing catch up. Google has offered Google Docs (its version of a web-ified MS Office) for years. It too is not as feature robust as the Office Suite, but it has certain nice to have features and in most instances is free. Because it exists in The Cloud, it also allows easy sharing of documents and spreadsheets among multiple parties.

If Microsoft’s killer product is Windows, Google’s killer product is not necessarily its search engine, but its ability to maintain a highly available and scalable Internet cloud. These things do not just happen. They require many years of work, research and refinement. The reason cloud computing took off slowly is that building such an infrastructure is hard. Google did it first but there have been other leaders in this field, including Amazon. Amazon, in addition to its ability to sell you pretty much anything online, has been a cloud computing innovator too. It takes a different tack by offering businesses very cheap computing resources on demand.

It takes a while for cloud computing to work up a head of steam, but Google is getting there. For example, the City of Los Angeles will be letting Google host its email services using a commercial version of its GMail service. Whether this will be a stake in the heart of Microsoft Exchange remains to be seen. Exchange is Microsoft’s pricy but widely used business-class email server. It is a complex beast requiring many skilled specialists to keep it going. With email seen as a commodity, cloud services like GMail seem a logical way for a business to save a lot of money.

Even the Department of Interior, where I work, is rethinking email. It is seriously looking at cloud computing as a replacement for its mixture of Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes email servers. Its goal is to complete a department-wide transition by the end of 2010, which seems ambitious to me. It is possible that a year from now when I am sending work related email it will be through a hosted service like GMail rather than Lotus Notes.

It’s a little known fact, but far more email is transmitted across the Internet than web pages. (This may be due to ninety percent of email traffic being spam.) Consequently, a company that can grab a majority of the email market is well positioned to drive the future of the Internet. GMail and Google’s ubiquitous search engine are two feet into the enterprise space that may eventually kill Windows. The next part of Google’s strategy is to control the desktop. What Google is hoping to do is make desktop computing obsolete. If you store all your personal stuff in The Cloud and it is always highly available then what is the point of a big, bloated operating system like Windows, particularly when Windows can take many minutes just to boot up and costs a lot of money to set up and maintain?

To help sell this vision, Google has released its own web browser called Chrome. It’s big selling point is speed. It reputedly renders pages ten times faster than Internet Explorer and is even faster than Firefox, my browser of choice. Its market share is currently quite tiny, and is likely to remain such for the near future. For many people with high-speed Internet connections, faster rendering of web content is very much appreciated. While I like Firefox, it can be slow at times, particularly when you press the back button. If Chrome can do away with such annoyances, I might have a compelling reason to switch browsers.

Google’s strategy for killing Microsoft has two parts: selling people on netbooks and its promised new operating system called Chrome OS. If you are unfamiliar with the term netbook, it is small (generally portable) computer optimized for interacting with the Internet. It deemphasizes storing documents on the netbook. Instead, data is stored in “The Cloud” where presumably it lives longer than you do. To succeed, Google needs to convince you to trust it to not only always retain your data, but to keep it secure and highly available at all times. While Google suffers from widely scattered service problems such as a recent GMail outage, overall its track record is very good and getting better. The Facebook generation seems to be comfortable keeping its data in the cloud. Chrome OS then becomes little more than a very lightweight operating system for Netbooks. It would boot up very quickly, unlike Microsoft Windows. Presumably, Chrome would be the browser of choice for its speed and a virtual desktop operating system as well as an integrated web browser. The netbook becomes really nothing more than a portal for allowing you to interact with all your data in the cloud as well as surf the web.  In some sense, it is a Back to the Future operating system, where netbooks essentially become fancy terminals.

If Google can convince us that desktop computing in the 21st century is for Luddites, then the handwriting in on the wall for Microsoft Windows. Microsoft can try to offer its own netbooks and cloud-computing infrastructure, but it is clearly years behind Google. Nor can it offer a compelling reason for us to stick with the Windows brand in a network-computing world. Why pay for an operating system and software when Google Chrome OS would be (presumably) free, as well as most if not all of its hosted applications? Making Chrome OS available would also encourage software vendors to create their own applications that run under Chrome OS. The result could be an application-centric Internet realized through quick and response web-based applications using Chrome OS.

To the extent you believe in Google’s vision, you may wish to start selling your Microsoft stock for Google stock.