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Is Dell Taking a Shine to Chrome?

Is Dell Taking a Shine to Chrome?

"Dell is likely considering Chrome OS because for some use cases, it's likely to be a superior solution," said RedMonk analyst Stephen O'Grady. "For traditional netbook users, for example, a browser-based operating system is likely more than sufficient, with the attendant benefits of a narrowly focused platform -- performance, etc. -- likely to be a bonus."

By Katherine Noyes LinuxInsider ECT News Network
06/22/10 5:00 AM PT

Dell is talking with Google about the possibility of using the search giant's Chrome OS on its laptop computers, Reuters reported on Monday.

Dell wants to be a "leader" when it comes to implementing Chrome and Android, Amit Midha, Dell's president for Greater China and South Asia, told Reuters.

Midha confirmed that talks between his company and Google were under way, but he declined to make any definite announcements.

Neither Dell nor Google responded by press time to LinuxInsider's requests for confirmation and comment.

Notably Absent

Google's Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system focused on getting users quickly to the Web.

When the technology was first announced almost a year ago, Google listed a number of hardware companies said to be working with it, including Acer, Adobe, Asus, Freescale, HP, Lenovo, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and Toshiba.

Notably absent from the list was Dell.

Rumors of 'Chromoting'

Last fall, however, almost immediately after the release of the source code for the operating system, Dell began experimenting with Chrome OS on its Mini 10v netbook, causing widespread speculation that it was eyeing the platform for that form factor.

Recent additions to the operating system include the Cloud Print project -- giving Chrome OS devices the ability to print wirelessly via the Internet -- and Chromoting, a new remote desktop feature rumored to be in the works.

Chrome is expected to hit the market later this year.

Dell, meanwhile, has already been actively working with the Android operating system through devices such as its Aero smartphone and the Android-based Dell Streak, which is expected to debut next month.

'Likely to Be a Superior Solution'

"Dell is likely considering Chrome OS because for some use cases, it's likely to be a superior solution," RedMonk analyst Stephen O'Grady told LinuxInsider. "For traditional netbook users, for example, a browser-based operating system is likely more than sufficient, with the attendant benefits of a narrowly focused platform -- performance, etc. -- likely to be a bonus."

Dell also has a history of being "among the first to support 'alternative' operating systems, such as Ubuntu, on mainstream desktop PCs and laptops," 451 Group analyst Jay Lyman pointed out. "The company likes to keep its options and its future open to emergent and even obscure technologies that may hold more promise down the road."

Lyman "would not be surprised if Dell was working to incorporate Google's Chrome into its plans and products," he said. At the same time, however, "I would argue there is more momentum for Android thanks largely to its popularity in smartphones."

Most of Dell's desktop and laptop PCs still ship with Windows, Lyman pointed out, "but Dell understands the world, the market, and its devices are changing rapidly," he explained. "The overall impact is greater competition at the OS level, which has become exciting again, given smartphones and other consumer devices, connections to the enterprise and cloud computing and convergence of different computing environments via new devices."

'Walking a Fine Line'

If true, Dell's use of Chrome OS "isn't likely to improve" the company's relationship with Microsoft, O'Grady noted.

Still, "it's also not the first time that Dell has embraced an alternative to Windows, given its support for the Ubuntu distribution," he added. "Longer term, its impact to Microsoft is unclear, pending better details on adoption."

Looking ahead, though, Google is "walking a fine line with both Android and Chrome OS, as the areas of overlap between the two are increasing over time," O'Grady asserted. "OEMs are finding it difficult to navigate conversations with Google on their recommended operating system, because it's not always clear to either Google or their hardware partners which platform they should push for a given device."


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