Whether or not to design a new OS is probably the wrong question to ask at this point. Gruber says that hardware makers should strongly consider going the Apple route and design their OS and hardware combined. I think that the iPhone vs. any other mobile OS battle, and any other standards-battle really, proves that it’s not so much about the OS as it is a about critical mass of apps. At the same time, had the App-less iPhone v1 (lame pun intended) been a badly design hardware+OS, then no one would’ve bought it. But that was threshold 1, which the iPhone got out of and we are in threshold 2 now: features, i.e. Apps.
PC OSs are in the same boat. As much as I like Mac OS X, if it didn’t run the apps that I needed to be productive or unproductive (you know, media & games…), then the chances of me getting a Mac are zero. Any new OS maker is in the same boat, having to think about both their OS and the apps that run on it. A hardware maker designing an OS would have to think about all three dimensions (+ all the other stuff: consumers, partners, etc.).
I think I was fairly down on Android as an OS and fairly up on Chrome OS (COS), long before it either came out. I’m still sort of down on Android and very much up on COS. The reason is for once not hardware or software, it’s the changing world of telecommunication.
I haven’t been silent about my feelings about mobile operators. They’re not good, mostly for people in Europe that travel internationally a lot. And just when some positive movement is happening in terms of mobile and sms roaming charges, we now get Internet roaming, where operators still find plenty of opportunities to gouge consumers. It’s not unusual to pay several Euros/dollars/pounds per MB for instance, which is o.u.t.r.a.g.e.o.u.s.
As such, when I saw the ASUS EEE and all the other Netbook models being offered with subscriptions, I was skeptical. But what I didn’t think much about, because I wasn’t a user at the time, was the opportunities that ubiquitous internet (within roaming reality) offered: by buying a subscription with a laptop you are in fact instantly online, which makes any argument against a NetOS moot. It completely opens up the road for a NetOS maker, like Google, but also like Nokia, RIM, Palm, Apple, Microsoft, etc. to build an OS that entirely operates on a connected backbone. This is the opportunity that I see Chrome OS exploiting and why I think it, as well as the iPhone netbook/tablet if it comes out, will be massively successful.
I still don’t like the idea of hardware enslaving itself to telecom-operators. But I think we really can start thinking about a cable-less world a few years from now, with all the implications (no more offices, augmented shopping, etc.) that it can bring.
Yay mobile net. Yay Net OS.
(Picture: city in clouds, courtesy of www.crestock.com)