Google (GOOG) apparently still has big ambitions in the hardware game. The search engine and online advertising giant is reportedly going to launch the first Chrome OS netbooks within the next few weeks.
One of those launches will be a product bearing the Google brand made by a third-party manufacturer. Google previously launched a branded smart phone, the Nexus One, that failed to catch fire after some wireless carriers elected not to heavily promote the device, which competed with other smart phone offerings in their stables. Now Google is ready to have another go at it, but this time in a fragmented market not tethered to any specific wireless or data networks.
The ultimate goal of Google is to put its Chrome operating system in as many places in the computing ecosystem as possible, including laptops, desktops, netbooks and tablets. This is a similar strategy to what Google has done with Android, a fast-growing smart phone operating system that CEO Eric Schmidt has been giving away to handset makers to great effect.
Chrome, however, is novel in that it is an operating system truly focused on moving as much computing activity as possible to the cloud and running only the bare minimum on the actual hardware.
This fulfills Google's longtime mission of pushing activity off the desktop or the laptop and into places where Google is particularly strong -- software as a service and data centers. Should Google's strategy take hold, it could have tremendous repercussions for both users and other players in the technology space. With Google Chrome devices, users do not need to worry about storing or backing up their data because these tasks (both time consuming and fraught with mistakes on traditional PCs) are performed by Google or other remote services. In theory, an enterprise running Google Chrome could eliminate a huge chunk of the duties now relegated to system administrators. Ultimately, Google Chrome could provide a challenge to the very existence of traditional software products and operating systems built around the notion of the PC or hardware as the central node in the computing experience.