I, along with every other geek this week, have invariably heard about the new operating system to be produced by Google. I have read multiple articles and really haven’t formed an opinion one way or the other about whether it will be good or not.
My real concern is about the ability of any operating system to truly overtake Windows as a standard. As much as we hate Windows and complain about the things that don’t work or get broken, the fact is, Windows is a known commodity, and the majority of users we will work with will be Windows-literate. Changing how they think, and operate, a computer, is a daunting task, and not one I will undertake lightly. [Yes, I am deliberately and knowingly leaving out the Mac discussion for this article.]
I am my family’s de facto technical adviser and repair-woman. When I get a call from my mother in Florida, I have to try to walk her through a fix or software setting via the phone. She has used Windows the last 8 years. My dad, who lives about an hour away, and his wife, both use Windows machines. I have two brothers who also live within a few hours, who use Windows machines. Needless to say, I’ve gotten really good at talking them through minor issues over the phone. They understand most of the processes they are being asked to do, and can muddle their way through with my instructions.
I cannot imagine teaching any of these people how to use Linux. One of the reasons I’ve not personally embraced it is because of all the “tinkering” that must be done to make changes, get programs to work properly, have all of your features available, etc. Linux is not intuitive, and intensely harder to manage overall because of the hands-on adjustments you have to make to it. And that’s okay for a geek, but not so good for the everyday user who just wants to sit down and surf the ‘net, type an email, or manipulate a photo or two from their digital cameras.
So when I look at Google’s offer of an operating system, I am more or less shrugging my shoulders and thinking “big deal.” Another thing to learn, that may or may not be any easier to navigate and support than another free operating system already available (Linux). I don’t see wide-spread acceptance of any new operating system at this point, despite the foibles and flaws of Windows. At this point in the game, it is a little late to be putting Windows back in the barn and getting people to convert to something completely different.
Of course, I could be wrong. It would be nice to think I’m wrong. But it’s got to be more than “hey look, it’s FREE” to get me to look twice. Because for all intents and purposes, Windows is free too, because it comes already installed on most new computers. I know it’s not technically free, but the perception is that it’s free. So Google’s new operating system has got to be bang-up better than what we already have to even have a chance of cracking the market and becoming a Windows killer.
And I have yet to see the app come along that can completely submerse Windows or other Microsoft software from majority use. The fact remains that most businesses and home computers are loaded with Windows and Microsoft Office and Microsoft Internet Explorer, and that the majority of people are using those products in their daily lives.
Google’s got a very tough row to hoe with this one.