Google Chrome LogoLate last night Google announced it would build Google Chrome OS – a new operating system initially for netbooks. The online tech media immediately did its version of over-the-top Michael Jackson-like coverage: TechCrunch’s “Google Drops A Nuclear Bomb On Microsoft. And It’s Made of Chrome” was typical.
The announcement’s timing is strange: At 9:37 pm PT Google’s Sundar Pichai, VP Product Management and Linus Upson, Engineering Director up and decide it’s time to formally declare war on Microsoft? Most companies dropping “nuclear bombs” on competitors do so during business hours; the impending leaks by Ars Technica and the New York Times don’t add up motivations to announce something this big on a Tuesday night.
It doesn’t add up: this is a preannouncement in the dead of night that Google is going to start building an OS under Chrome that assuming all goes well won’t be available for at least a full year. Why alert, energize and mobilize Microsoft? Netscape-like hubris, or something else?
I’d bet something else.
Something having to do with a few hundred very unhappy people camped out in idyllic Sun Valley, Idaho as you read this. These people happen to be the people who run most of the media you consume: media magnates IAC Barry Diller, News Corp. Rupert Murdoch, Disney CEO Bob Iger, Liberty Media Chairman John Malone and about 250 other television and newspaper movers and shakers are attending Allen & Co. annual conference. This conference is all about deals – really, really large deals.
These people are unhappy because a) advertising is down a huge 8.5% this year, b) newspapers are kneeling over right and left, c) increasingly people want their media content on the web, d) they have no intention of letting what’s happened to newspapers happen to their media properties, and e) the industry as a whole has been flailing at finding some unified way of making their content pay on the web for years.
That means finding a rock solid way to ensure you pay for their content. The most successful of these has been iTunes, but you can’t run a multi-billion dollar television network on iTunes revenue.
What’s a poor media mogul to do? Well, how about getting behind a new platform? Say one of those cheapie netbooks running an OS we don’t have to pay for, like, say, Google Chrome OS? Amazon’s Jeff Bezos (he’s scheduled to attend the Sun Valley conference by the way) has proved that there’s money to be made with your own platform – like Kindle. Which would you want? A netbook running Windows XP for $400 or a netbook running Chrome with every episode of Lost, you favorite newspapers and magazines for $100 and by the way a monthly subscription fee?
Later this week Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and co-founder Sergey Brin will be attending the Sun Valley conference; expect some major dealmaking to happen.

8 Comments

  1. Well, you know how much I love a good conspiracy theory — I don’t believe them much but I do love them.
    In this case, I think you’ve put together an interesting case with a testable hypothesis, so it’s worth listening to.
    I’ll look forward to monitoring news out of Sun Valley this week.
    But doesn’t a Google OS cut against the grain of the cloud computing movement? That part seems odd to me. Thoughts?

  2. Bob Walsh Reply

    No conspiracy implied or intended – just that people do things for reasons, and whatever titanic battle looms for Microsoft/Google, I think the real action is going to be media/Google.

  3. Conspiracy theory or not, you are presenting an interesting case. It’s frustrating to come to terms with the fact that all things corporate are driven by the all-important $$$. And it’s especially frustrating if you’re a Google Fanboi like myself. I only hope they stick to their guns, and ‘do no evil.’
    But seriously, They think i’m going to pay for internet content? What are they smokin’ up @ this summer camp in Idaho? I might consider paying for web-content, but only if I don’t EVER see a pop-up again in my life… and even then, probably not worth it.
    I wonder if this is the same discussion my parents had when they heard about cable television… “pay for the t.v. and I still have to see commercials!? what sort of idiots do they take us for?”
    … the easy to control kind, Dad… with big doe eyes & short attention spans.

  4. Pingback: Rising Tide » Blog Archive » Google Chrome: Why?

  5. Nice points Bob,
    David V, google has and is about the $$$. They do offer a lot of free resources to the web but the “Do no Evil” is a bit old – considering they still serve rubbish(ids) to most people. Yes they pays for the good things they do. Oh I run ad blockers of course!
    We know the all powerful media Moguls are quaking in their boots with falling revenues, their is a part of me that doesn’t really care, they don’t provide food or even thoughtful information to most people! If Fox died the world would be a happier less mind washed place!
    The web is changed rapidly in ways that most people don’t see coming…. back to my multiple column Tweetdeck realtime search stream (go the matrix).

  6. Assuming content costs something to create and deliver, someone has to pay. Normally the beneficiary would pay for services. I pay my dentist. I pay the plumber. I don’t expect them to provide their services at their own cost and no cost to me.
    So, apart from adverts and subscriptions, how else can the content you and I consume be paid for? Newspapers are running out of real-copy customers so we can’t rely on them subsidising us. We can’t rely on the price dumping models of the .com and web 2.0 booms because (a) investors are wising up to the infinitesimally small chance of ever getting a return and (b) some major regulator will at some point get wise to it too and start smacking it down for the anti-competitive practice that it is.

  7. Great post. Content is King, and if Chrome OS devices are going to be popular Google need to be able to offer a slew of media services alongside their current web apps. FWIW I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them targeting some cool new kindle sized touchscreen tablet devices as well as netbooks. It feels like a more natural home for a media rich device and would help redefine the market and set customer expectations by pitching Chrome OS firmly as an new breed of internet portal, not as a watered down laptop OS.

  8. Pingback: Google OS for Paid Media? | Code.Implant

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