Will Chrome OS offend the Open Source Community – WGAS?

I’m reasonably sure that Chrome OS will offend the open source community. There may even be a major reaction against it. You might not see open source luminaries picketing the Googleplex (although I wouldn’t be surprised), but there will almost certainly be a handful of inflammatory blog postings, and some very hot collars.

Here are Chrome OS’s sins, laid out one-by-one:

1. Chrome OS will include proprietary technologies. Linux still lacks a high-quality open source Flash plugin. Practically the only choice for 100% site compatibility is to use Adobe’s proprietary plugin, so Chrome OS will need to license and include it out of the box…

Then there are multimedia codecs. People are gonna want to play their tunes and watch their movies…Google will have to license the patents covering them. This will offend the open source community, who see the software patenting system as broken and corrupt…

2. Chrome OS was created to take away your privacy. Chrome OS exists to give Google access to your data. All of it. Chrome OS might be free of charge but you’ll pay for it with your online soul.

3. Google is big, ergo Google is evil. Open source people are suspicious of corporations, especially ones that are big. I have open source friends who won’t even shop at major supermarket chains, simply because of their size.


4. Chrome OS could destroy desktop Linux…The only people who were probably tight-lipped at the announcement of Chrome OS were Canonical, the guys behind Ubuntu. Chrome OS could destroy Ubuntu, or at the very least kill dead its plans for world domination.

Ubuntu was always aimed at the common man, and Canonical has been extremely successful at promoting this message. Chrome OS has the potential to make Ubuntu entirely redundant. Some people will stick with it, of course, but Chrome OS is aimed at exactly the same type of general user as Ubuntu. The two will compete, and Chrome OS will win because Google has virtually infinite resources and brainpower compared to Canonical.

5. Chrome OS is not a community Linux…The way it will work is that Google makes Chrome OS available, and you can make use of it if you wish. They might invite community feedback, and perhaps even source code patches, but they are in charge. You get what they give you…

Of course, none of this matters. Chrome OS isn’t aimed at Linux fanatics. It’s aimed at the ordinary user. Who cares what the fanatics think?

But it does matter. A lot. Chrome OS is a test of whether open source can actually live-up to its declaration of freedom. Most open source licenses are about freedom, provided certain caveats are followed.

The Linux community is a religious community. They have saints and prophets. And the same range of excuses for not delivering on the Promised Land.

Personally, I hope Ubuntu manages to achieve significant, protected market share in the time and space remaining before the introduction of Chrome OS. I have no beef with Google. I just like what Canonical has accomplished so far.

Marketing on a national and world scale is tough. Being a technical winner isn’t sufficient – though it helps. It requires big bucks and talented leadership. It requires serious penetration into the world of self-conscious computer users. The way Apple has and does.

Apple did it when the market was dominated by the Dark Force – and before Google was both ally and competitor. The Linux alternative [sorry] has never been a player in the mass market until Ubuntu. And as I said, they still haven’t demonstrated the ability to win big.

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