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Help Google's new Chrome OS to cut PC prices
NEW DELHI: Google has launched a test version of the Chrome OS, its much-awaited and delayed internet-centric operating system that analysts say could make the personal computer cheaper by up to 25% in India.

"Chrome OS is essentially a free software," says Sundar Pichai, vice-president for product management at Google, and one of the two leaders of a team that developed the new software.

An operating system makes up for roughly a fifth, and in many cases a fourth, of a PC's cost. For this reason, experts expect a fall in computer prices in 2011 because the Google OS is free. For example, a Rs 22,000 PC shipped from an original equipment maker costs as much because it comes with an operating system priced at nearly Rs 4,000. Likewise, a Microsoft Windows 7 Home Basic version costing Rs 5,690 and the Windows 7 Ultimate at Rs 11,190 add to PC prices.

"Google Chrome is bound to bring down PC costs, given that it will be open source and will not have associated licensing fees," says Pankaj Arora, Managing Director of Protiviti Consulting.
The price factor apart, users of the Chrome OS computers can also look forward to other benefits. For starters, they do not have to install software. Rather, the PCs rely on applications delivered over the internet, making it easy for users to access files and applications from any machine.

Chrome ideal for people on the move

Chrome PCs also start up quickly, taking users to a browser within 10 seconds after booting. "The Chrome is ideal for an increasing number of people who need to access or record information in their daily work, but are seldom at a desk with a PC and ethernet connection," says tech consultancy Ovum. Though aimed at netbooks, the lightweight Chrome can support desktops and laptops as well because it runs on both X86 (Intel Pentium, Atom family) as well as the ARM chip systems. Besides Google features such as Docs for spreadsheets, presentations and word processors as well as Reader for PDF documents, users can hook up with common accessories such as calculator and tabs for Facebook, YouTube and built-in security features via a browser.

Google first announced Chrome OS in July 2009 along with plans to sell netbooks running the software from the second half of 2010. Tuesday's news conference in San Francisco at which the internet giant began distributing a limited number of PC models running the software does not mean that users are about to lay their hands on the Chrome OS. Google's inability to go beyond a test version means that customers are staring at a further delay.

The Chrome OS will only be available to a select group of users because the new devices running the software are being shipped by Google's partners such as Samsung and Acer for now, says Mr Pichai. Acer and Samsung devices are expected to hit the market in mid-2011. "We are (also) working with multiple PC manufacturers to bring a number of netbooks to the market next year," he adds.

In the meantime, "technical people can download and install it easily after a bit of tweaking, though," says Mr Pichai. The company will hand out about a few thousand laptops with Chrome OS for education and non-profit use.

For Google, the Chrome OS presents an opportunity to take aim at Microsoft and Apple by offering an alternative to their operating systems, the Windows and Mac OS.

"Provided there is huge demand for the Chrome OS in 2011, PC prices may fall by a couple of thousands, since the OS may come free," says Vishal Tripathi, principal research analyst at Gartner.

Still, it will be interesting to see if Google convinces manufacturers to move away from Microsoft and produce Chrome OS netbooks, he says. "Partnerships of Microsoft with PC makers remain strong as ever and demand for Chrome will depend upon its performance." Microsoft India had no comment on the impact of Chrome OS on the operating system market. Dell, HP, HCL, Acer and Lenovo are the largest PC sellers in India. The partnership with Acer, which has a 10% share in the Indian PC market, is the only one officially announced by Google yet.

Google's other partner Samsung has a less than 2% share in India. In comparison, Microsoft's share in the global operating system market is more than 90%. In India, that rises to 98%, thanks to the Windows OS. The Windows XP is the most-used OS in India with a market share of about 70%, followed by Windows 7 (about 20%) and Windows Vista (8%), says StatCounter, the online tracker of tech statistics. The balance 2% market share is divided between Mac OS and Linux users. And despite Google's best-laid plans, tech analysts say Chrome OS, which is primarily aimed at netbooks might lose out if tablet PCs swamp the netbook market. "Apple has a jump on Google in this market, and it will have a second version of the iPad with an updated version of its own iOS before Chrome is officially released to the world in the second half of 2011."

Adds Ovum: "Given that a USP of Chrome is the 'instant on', will these workers want it on a device such as netbook or even the Cr-48 'pilot device' laptop being offered by Google for testing? No they will want a tablet."

There are other challenges as well. "Awareness of open source software is limited In India, especially amongst small businesses," says Rohit Chaudhary, CEO and founder of the newly-launched, a PC support provider. "Besides, resellers are not pushing netbooks to consumers because they come with lower margins."

Source: The Economic Times

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