Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth was recently interviewed and had some very interesting things to say regarding Google’s Chrome project and its affect on Linux. “The work Google is doing with the Chrome operating system, which runs the Chrome browser on top of a generic version of Linux, “is having a hugely positive impact on the performance of Chrome on Linux,” Shuttleworth said. “That’s unusual,” Shuttleworth said. “You don’t often see that in a cross-platform project. We may well be in a position where Chrome on Ubuntu and Chrome on Linux is a better experience than Chrome on any other platform.”
If what Shuttleworth says is in fact true and Chrome runs best on Linux, considering that more and more people are turning to the web for obtaining digital functionality, and Chrome is getting more and more market share, could this inspire people to switch to Linux? It’s cheap (as in free) and Linux distributions such as Ubuntu are committed to user-friendliness.
Should this talk from Shuttleworth concern Google? After all, one would imagine Google would want to push their Chrome OS.
Google has shown no concern any sign of being threatened by open source, unlike Bill Gates once expressed. On the contrary, Google has shown much support for the open source community. Make no mistake, Google wants to make a pretty penny, but they are not seeking dominance via the “traditional” Windows/Apple model.
What is the Windows/Apple model? Well, it’s pretty basic actually. It’s selling their OS, the money for software model. Apple is a master of this with their app centered ecosystem. Not only do they get revenue from selling closed devices with their respective operating systems, they get 30% from every application sold from the App Store.
Google’s model is different. Google makes money by people using the Internet. Google wants to get as much people on the Internet as possible. The more people use the Internet, the more people will use Google, resulting in more ad revenue for Google. The better experience the Internet is for people, the more they’ll use it. While Google invests a lot in technologies that enhance the user experience of the Internet, it doesn’t matter really whether Google is the company that provides the better user experience or not. Google still benefits.
Whether it is from Chrome OS or Linux, Google may yet take a big chunk out of companies that maintain a hostility to open source. Companies so hostile to open source ultimately shoot themselves in the foot. Less innovation means less utility and result in less people finding value in their technology. If Firefox didn’t come around when it did, Internet Explorer would’ve likely stagnated. If all these browsers weren’t pressuring each other to innovate and take Internet technology farther, I don’t think we would be even considering that a browser could serve as the front end to a thin-client, let alone offering it as a consumer product. Yet behold: Chromebooks are here.
Innovations in technology continue because the industry remains open and competitive in nature. We all win. Also, consider this: As great as cloud computing is, we need Linux to be the open source, hackable (in the good, legal way), nuts and bolts platform that people can learn computer science from and a platform where people can learn the backbone of the Internet. Someone has to run those huge data centers, someone has to program. That takes very specialized technical knowledge and experience that Linux can foster. Just try taking an old computer, put Linux on it and see how much you learn. So in this sense, what’s good for Linux is good for Google as well.
What do you think? Would you like to see Chrome as the main browser in Linux? How do you think that will affect Google’s other projects?