Archive | July, 2009

Chrome, Android, Chicago and NT: Google is looking more and more like Microsoft

9 Jul

As a long time Web/tech guy and a 9 year Microsoft vet, my first reaction to the Google Chrome OS announcement was “feels like I’ve seen this before”. In fact, Microsoft famously created and managed two parallel operating systems with an overlapping audience back in in the 90s. The first, Windows NT, had its roots in DEC’s venerable VMS system, and was originally designed by Dave Cutler. The second, Windows ‘9x (codename Chicago) evolved out of the DOS/Windows 3.x codebase. In the 1990s, the teams developing these systems developed a famous and intense rivalry – arguably distracting them from their real mission and costing the company millions of dollars in lost productivity. NT was first released in 1993 as an enterprise grade operating, and from then until the release of Windows XP in 2001, the development team worked in parallel to a consumer OS team. Given that there was significant scope overlap between the two teams, there are stories of intense battles between them for predominance and to earn the right to form the basis for the convergence between the consumer and enterprise products. As it turns out the NT group won out, culminating in Windows XP, which was actually Windows NT 5.1, sending Windows 9x to the dustbin of history after over a decade of development.
You could argue that Google’s two OSs are fundamentally different: Android targets mobile devices, Chrome OS targets PCs. However, in my mind this distinction is not 100% clear. What about Netbooks? What about other larger devices to come that converge high speed wireless data and voice with keyboards and larger screens. Google would be wise to learn a lesson from the Microsoft experience and ensure that their two Operating System teams focus on competing with their real competition, not with each other.