Recently, Google announced the release of their newest netbook/thin client called Chromebook. This computer is built entirely of just a browser. That's it. It's a pretty amazing concept considering that no other software/hardware developer has attempted this before.
There are some things you have to know in order to fully understand the implications of a laptop that is nothing but a browser. The first thing is that SaaS (Software as a Service) is quickly becoming the default method of delivering software features to users. The Chromebook banks on this concept entirely.
Google was sure to put in place all of the necessary services that a standard computer would give you, but in SaaS form. These services include, but are not limited to (actually, there are tens of thousands of web-based SaaS available to date): Gmail, Google Docs and Google Talk. The aforementioned services provide the staple uses for any personal computer. They have even made sure to provide a version of Angry Birds that is chrome-friendly.
Not only is this computer extremely Internet friendly, it also boasts a start-up time of 8 seconds, and a battery life of over 8 hours of continuous use. Impressive enough to make me think seriously about making one of these my new office/demo computer.
So, what if companies decided that since Google provides domain based email and document management, integrated on-line collaboration and every other corporate SaaS that they needed, that they no longer needed to use a collage of windows servers and windows clients that are expensive to buy and maintain. What if they could just use Google Apps at $50/user/year and $429 per (mobile) workstation?
Microsoft's main hold on the market has been largely in personal computing and office computing. Since the comeback of apple, and the ever-expansion of Linux, Microsoft has been slowly losing ground in this area. But that's OK, they still have office computing, right? Wrong. More than ever, macs are creeping into the office space, touting compatibility with Microsoft's corporate products. I see evidence of this in my own office, and in discussion across the intertoobs.
Enter: the Chromebook. With Microsoft losing shares of both the home and office computing market shares, Google's approach to light weight SaaS computing may very well be the end to corporate need for Microsoft's products. This would put Microsoft as the industry leader in... well... development tools? But what would people want Microsoft development tools for, if the majority of users are on Linux (mac included) and Chrome?
Things look bleak for the old personal computing giant. At least from where I'm standing. I sure hope that Microsoft comes up with a solution soon... because I really like their development tools. :P