Eric Schmidt resisted the development of Google’s computer operating system — what later would be named the Chrome OS — for the first six years after he joined the company as chief executive in 2001.
“They’ve wanted to do this project since founding the company,” Mr Schmidt said of Google’s co-founders. “At the time Google was a small company. After coming through the bruising browser wars, I did not want us to go through them again.”
Over Mr Schmidt’s objections, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google co-founders, hired developers who had worked on Mozilla’s Firefox browser and created an early version of the Chrome browser. “It was so good, they forced me to change my mind,” Mr Schmidt told reporters at the annual Sun Valley confab of media and technology moguls.
By the second half of 2010, netbooks running Chrome OS will hit the market in what is widely viewed as an affront to Microsoft, the world’s largest software maker.
The operating system, based on the freely available Linux software, will be an alternative to the dominant Microsoft Windows operating system, now powering 97 per cent of the world’s computers.
While Microsoft derived some 45 per cent of its $22.5bn of operating profits last year from its operating system, Chrome OS will be free to users. Its importance to Google is that it could serve as a platform to drive more users to its web services, feeding its dominant search advertising business.
“We benefit…when [consumers] put more of their life online,” Mr Schmidt said. “They do more searches, click on more ads. It’s a very straight-forward strategic initiative.”
Mr Schmidt and Mr Page, speaking to reporters at the conference, dodged specific reference to Microsoft. They said that Google’s operating system, based on its Chrome web browser, relied on supporting web-based applications rather than running software installed on a computer.
To underscore Chrome OS’s distinction from rival products, Mr Page rejected calling Chrome OS an operating system at all. “It’s more about the lack of an operating system,” he said. “When you use a phone you don’t think about an operating system. When you use a kindle you don’t know the operating system.”
“I want the operating system to be out of the way,” Mr Page added.