Google's Chrome OS is either neat or irrelevant, depending on how you think—but the timing is undeniably interesting. It's more than a year away, so why'd Google go to press now? One theory is to beat Microsoft.
This idea's being explored over at TechCrunch, and it's getting a lot of attention across the Web. The main points come from FriendFeed posts by Robert Scoble who apparently has an inside line on some big Microsoft news that's due next Monday. From a succession of his hints and slightly sarcastic comments, it seems that this big event will be the public announcement of Microsoft Office's transition to a cloud-based service as well as being a dedicated software package. It's a project that's been known about for a year, marrying nicely into bigger Microsoft goals, and apparently Monday's the day for the news to hit at MS's Worldwide Partner Conference.
Thinking about it, going to the cloud is a sensible next-gen transition for Office—it'll add in all sorts of collaborative and remote-access functionality that'll be useful for many business people the world over. And it's a direct response to Google Docs, which is already live and doing pretty well, and positions Google to steal some market share from Microsoft.
But here's the thing: Why would Google make the announcement about its Chrome operating system to beat Microsoft's online productivity suite news? Sure, they're both cloud-related (at least, that's one theory for Chrome) and they're both kinda Web browser-related. And I know Google and MS are pretty much head-to-head over many projects and products, and viciously one-upping the competition is a pretty common business practice. But pushing this particular one-upmanship argument is like saying a news release about orange juice is designed to beat a separate one about bananas: They're both fruit-related, but clearly different.
Regardless of Chrome OS, Microsoft can still announce its Office data on Monday—if indeed that is what's going to happen—and it'll be bloody big news, simply because hundreds of millions of people use Office, and will continue to do so. And okay, Google's introduced a potential competitor to Microsoft's core Windows business product, but there have been many such competitors over the years and Microsoft, leviathan that it is, is still rolling on. Chrome OS? The MS guys at Redmond are almost certainly not worried.