Google to launch PC operating system

The final element in Google’s drive to reshape the computing landscape fell into place on Wednesday when it unveiled plans for a PC operating system that would compete directly with Microsoft’s Windows.

But the fortress that Microsoft has built around Windows is likely to withstand this attack for some time to come, giving the software company room for manoeuvre as it tries to reshape its own technology around the internet, analysts said.

Google said a number of low-priced laptops known as netbooks, based on its new operating system, would go on sale in the second half of next year.

It predicted that the software would bring benefits to PC users from greatly cutting the time it takes for a machine to start up to reducing the complexity of managing personal computers.

Coming in the wake of its Android operating system for smartphones and Chrome web browser for accessing the internet, Google’s planned operating system, to be called Chrome OS, will complete the range of software that the company produces for internet-connected devices.

Google makes no money directly from open-source software like Chrome OS.

The importance to the company of the software is that it serves as a platform that could eventually drive more users to its web services, feeding its dominant search advertising business. Users will not have to rely on Microsoft’s dominant Windows.

The challenge to Microsoft is clear. Some 45 per cent of its $22.5bn of operating profits last year came from the Windows PC operating system, but the software’s significance to Microsoft extends much further.

Its second big money-spinner, the Office suite of applications, is tied to Windows.

As an open-source system based on freely available Linux software, Chrome OS takes aim at that.

Given Windows’s deeply entrenched position in computing, however, most analysts said that Google would find it hard to unseat the software group. “This isn’t going to be something that is going to hurt Microsoft very quickly, it’s going to take some time before it really makes a dent,” said Mike Silver, an analyst at Gartner.

More than 70 per cent of the software applications used by the typical company run on the Windows operating systems, he said, making it expensive and time-consuming for companies to consider changing to a new operating system.

The Chrome OS might make a much bigger impact among consumers, though even individual PC users have shown a strong preference for software applications that run on Windows, analysts said.

Microsoft has already proved adept at fending off a series of attacks on its Windows PC business, leaving it with a market share of around 97 per cent, according to Gartner.

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