back to article Chrome OS: Windows killer?

Google’s announcement last week concerning its plans to bring out a fully fledged operating system was inevitably going to put the cat amongst the twitterati. “Let’s see,” asked the pundits, “who else makes operating systems?” Of course the intention was to have the Microsoft marketing monster shaking in its boots, not least to …

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I hate titles

There's a reason why nothing will ever be a Windows killer, except Windows, because people on the whole like familiarity. As is touched upon in the article, people generally dislike change and where possible avoid it in favour of "more of the same". The only reason Windows can survive new versions every couple of years is because most of the layout is the same, and most of the changes occur under the hood as it were.

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Nail/Head

That quote about Excel 2003 hits it doesn't it?

For the majority of people, there is nothing you can't do on last year's PC that you can do today. There is nothing that Win7 does that XP doesn't do. There is nothing that Excel 2008 does that Excel 2003 doesn't do.

For a few years, vendors have been selling technology for the sake of it, not for it's new capabilities. Since 2000, people have been using a lower and lower percentage of their own computing power.

The reason XP netbooks have overtaken Linux ones is familiarity. The brand sells it. Google netbooks that look sexy, with all the eyecandy people want and let you YouTube and Facebook to your hearts content (as well as letting you type your assignments on Google Docs) could well be a threat at the low end of the market.

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Boffin

Infotech looks more and more like a Half-Life obstacle course to me.

*Oh no, not _another_ blocked lift with no emergency stairwell and facehuggers closing up on me from behind.*

How boring.

I just wanna get to the surface.

Maybe I should change the job.

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Pint

Codec licensing ?

"and optimisation for all those multimedia codecs that are an essential part of the modern teen’s internet experience."

No need for the word "teen's" there. Any machine that can't play web-based multimedia can't be considered a netbook.

Hmmmm, I wonder how Google will go about getting licenses for all those proprietary codecs. You often have to do a bit of jiggery-pokery before a truly 'free' Linux distro will play nicely with multimedia (or you could just say "f*** it" and install Linux Mint which is good to go straight out the box).

Well I want my Chrissy, 'n I want my beer,

So you just barf it back up now Devil, do you hear?

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Are we sure?

It seems Google Chrome OS isn't quite what you think. You want to call it "GoogleOS" but it isn't it's "Chrome OS" (or maybe ChromeOS). Chrome is a browser, which should give you a clue what a "Chrome OS" is all about. It seems to be an "on the metal browser". Just enough Linux/GNU to get Chrome running. For "offline" it's sure to use Google's Gears.

So is this a challenger to Windows? Well in some places sure, wherever the uses a browser far more than native apps then Chrome OS might work. Here's the kicker, Chrome OS's performance on the same hardware will be fantastic (compared to IE) and web apps will run far better with Google's JavaScript engine.

So should this give Microsoft sleepless nights? Well not yet, for most users the idea of replacing all of Windows with a web browser isn't going to work, not until there is a huge improvement in web apps. But the early stages of that are happening, and if you're a business thinking of creating some new internal application well a web app has to look like a far better option than creating something for Windows. After all, the browser isn't going anywhere. So yeah, a future without Microsoft, we can ALMOST picture it. Not going to happen tomorrow, but that won't stop Microsoft from worrying.

Android is a far more potent immediate threat, Windows Mobile looks very vulnerable to it, there is no reason it can't scale up to netbooks, laptops and possibly beyond. It isn't "just a browser" but a whole OS in the traditional sense. This should be giving Microsoft sleepless night already.

As for Apple? Perhaps in the short term anything that messes with Microsoft is good for Apple. A lot of Google's innovation is built on WebKit (an Apple technology) and if Google can drive developers to target WebKit (as well as IE) then that helps Apple.

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Google will win the netbooks

You cant put a £150 OS (win7) onto a £100 netbook. So if MS doesn't drop win prices chromeOS will win big.

If MS does reduce price - google may have lost the battle - but may win the war by taking a lot of money MS may have had if chrome OS had not existed.

Its a win win for Google and a win win for linux in general as the improvements google make will be used by others.

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Jobs Horns

Windoze

"nothing will ever be a Windows killer, except Windows"

Very good point.

"every couple of years is because most of the layout is the same"

Yep, same shit every time and the price keeps rising. So much for Linux-style updates, more like bug-fixes and GUI improvements - nothing else.

No, I don't have a mac or run Linux, I'm a w'doze user for gaming but I fear for the future of our planet if this company keeps rolling out its' shit. I remember well the time when DOS was out there that every game had its' own boot system/OS/whatever to make them run (I still have all those games, boxed and in perfect condition).

I think I lost my point a bit - just had to answer a call from some marketing twat - oh damn, gimme DOS back - and not an emulator.

AC cos anyone that knows me might start taking the piss.

Evil Ballmer - yeah he's a chair throwing wanker and his OS sucks but it's necessary oftimes.

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Anonymous Coward

What about gOS cloud?

Doesn't http://www.thinkgos.com/cloud/index.html do exactly what Google want to do??

Anyway, it'll be great as a dual boot option.

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FAIL

Windows Killer?

Windows Killer = Vista imo...

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There can come a tipping point...

Last month when we went camping there were two enthusiastic 'power users' who'd switched to Ubuntu and were raving about it.

My laptop dual boots Vista/Ubuntu - and the difference is absolutely staggering. Vista is painfully slow - Ubuntu runs so much faster and has so many more features and basically just lets me get on with my work - it must save me at least 15 hours a week in comparison to using Vista.

Once the PHB's find it fashionable to be cool and say how they've transferred depts over to Ubuntu based PC's and they've been able to lay off all their PFY's you may see a tipping point in action.

And the reason I think it will happen is because Ubuntu is SO much better than Windows.

The guys who may have to watch out or the Floundering Amateurs who currently fake a living by rebooting PC's and clicking next repeatedly.

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Piracy in the developing world

MS - and equally Adobe with Photoshop - know full well that piracy helps them 'lock in' customers - imagine the outcry if people had all had to pay for Word when it was effectively the default format people used for documents on the web (it was such a throwback to encounter a restaurant menu as a Word .doc the other week).

Far better to get a business economy locked into your ecosystem, and then pursue the legal route against businesses (who tend to be more compliant than individuals) than risk pushing a developing economy into using something else.

(It's only now that MS are seriously pushing for license revenue from China, that the Chinese govt is seriously looking at Linux).

As for whether people fear change - it's difficult to tell - they have less problems replacing Nintendos with Playstations with XBox systems, even though there is no software compatibility.

And Apple's fortunes changed when they stopped trying to get people to 'switch' (what I've got works for me, so why change?) and started marketing the Mac as desirable in itself.

The key for any Chrome products is to do the same - not to present themselves as 'PCs with limitations'.

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Gates Horns

Pirated Windows

<quote>What of emerging economies? The word is that while use of open source is growing, software piracy is growing faster and (like many major vendors) Microsoft has largely given up fighting it for now.</quote>

Yes, would Microsoft prefer to take legal action to stop large numbers of people in places like China and India, etc using pirated Windows.... and in doing so drive 1/3 of the world's population into the arms of free linux OS's?

I don't think so. Why? Well if most of China and India start using Linux then M$ are in serious trouble!......

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As with Excel so with everything else

Telling the whole train might make the man an idiot. But not upgrading for upgrades' sake? Given the trouble and expense, that excel-using traveller seems relatively sensible to me.

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Pint

Good Timing Steve

There he was, standing up in front of all those dedicated Microsoft Partners etc telling them how everything was going to be done in the cloud and Google had stolen his thunder with their announcement.

Unless that his, the Microsoft idea of the 'cloud' is very different to the of Google and the rest of the world (which is probably not far from the truth IMHO) so that when you try to use the Microsoft version you get this popup (which can't be blocked) asking you to use not a supported browser but a supported 'Web Operating System' followind by an invite to install there and then Windows for Web Use (aka a hacked version of Windows 7).

Yep, I've just got back from the pub

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Definitely Not a Windows Killer

I don't think the idea of having just a web browser that can run offline addons in a debian-like environment is going to come anywhere close to killing Windows. Take, for example, Macintosh. Most people would widely agree that Macs are nice computers and that the operating system is fast, efficient and secure (the latter a really bad rumor spread my Apple, they're easier than Windows to attack). Given all of that, they still have done little but chip away at Microsoft's earnings. In fact, a good chunk of Mac users, some 33% if I remember correctly, dual boot with Windows or have a Windows machine as well.

Google may capture a good portion of the Netbook market. A market that's slowly becoming less popular due to dissatisfied customers and retailers misunderstanding the difference between a netbook and a notebook.

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It will be as popular as Chrome itself

i.e. a few die-hard Google fans will evangelise it but no-one else will care.

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Corporate politics rather than tech advance

I think this is more a corporate turf battle rather than anything that should genuinely excite users technically. I still get some buggy problems with Google Chrome, so they haven't convinced me that they have a IE killer browser yet, let alone a Wndows lkiller. Perhaps its the type of thing I would install as a dual boot since I love Googles willingness to try out new concepts and ideas, so I don't mind giving them space . Windows of course is becoming like alcohol to the alcoholic. We have become so dependent on it it would be impossible and possibly unwise to get rid of it. It is also not as bad as the geek world would make you believe. However,in the eyes of Microsoft , Windows shines on the computer world with the splendor of a great celestial orb floating majestically through cyber space. Of course from the users perspective, we know that the celestial spheres are nothing more than a massive agglomeration of celestial junk randomly crashing onto the planets surface, which has now become beautifully smooth and spherical only because it has collapsed under its own weight.

Google OS is more likely to be like an ugly little asteroid folating around the bigger planet!

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Anonymous Coward

There will be no Google/Chrome/whatever Os, ok?

Google will never be able to pass through the ranks of computer manufacturers and resellers who are all sworn to Microsoft. These two lines of defense will allow Microsoft to better concentrate on milking any price they want from their loyal but hapless and familiarity loving user base. Forget Linux and Apple.

As for the Android, forget everything you heard about it, it never existed. Oh, and large masses of computer users rejected it because they can't run Photoshop on it.

El Reg, where is our I.V.Stalin icon please ?

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FAIL

Google Fail.

Google will never break compatibility with it's online services and applications with Microsoft Windows.

Therefore, besides being pretty, Chrome OS will never, ever, offer any functionality that you can't get just by installing Windows and using Internet Exploder.

So _always_, as in 100% of the time, a user using "Chrome OS" will experience a large reduction in capabilities and flexibility compared with just running Google Apps on Windows.

Ergo.. Chrome OS hype is VERY misplaced. It will never displace Windows because Google will never be able to offer a online platform that is exclusive to their OS.

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Go

It all lies with the PC vendors

Forget about the likes of you and me who make informed decisions about what OS we use and install it ourselves. We are in the vast minority of PC users.

Forget about the Google, Linux and MS Fanbois. Their opinions will only be heard by each other and the likes of you and me and they are in the vast minority of PC users.

The people that will decide if this works or not will be the PC vendors, if they decide to sell PCs that have Google OS on them instead of Win7 then this thing has a chance of taking off in the home market.

But the question is, how much will MS pay, sorry, offer discounts to the vendors to keep that from happening?

Personally I recon Google will do a really good job and I'm genuinely excited (no! Not in that way) by the prospect of a free Google OS, about 100 million times more excited than I am about Win7 and office 2010.

Which makes me very excited indeed!

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This post has been deleted by its author

Distro confusion?

There's no problem with Linux distros. Most people just grab whatever distro the press are raving about currently - right now it's obviously Ubuntu. Anyone who wants to investigate a little further must be a hardcore geek anyway, so they're unlikely to be freaked out by having plenty of choices available.

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@censored

Too right.

WinXP was the "Baby Bear" Windows. Win98 gave you lots of flexibility and decent speed, but crashed too often. Win2K locked everything down too tight and tended to be slow, but was more reliable. WinXP was the first one which let you get on with things, but also kept a good level of reliability (in its final incarnation, it's *way* stable).

I just don't get the whole Vista/Win7 thing. What do we want an OS to do? Answer: run stuff efficiently and reliably. WinXP was a done deal on that front. If MS had had some balls (instead of some Ballmers), they'd have said "Our work here is done" and put their dev team onto something else. Instead they've gone with the marketing glitz to put an unnecessary pretty interface on it all, which totally saps processing speed and RAM.

Meantime, what do we want Office apps for? Mostly it's just typing in docs or spreadsheets. Forget Office 2003 - there's nothing much significant since Office 97 on that score. And BTW, Google's much-touted "cloud" apps aren't even as capable as Word 6 or Excel 4.

All we really want is to get stuff done. Until 2 years ago, I was still using a 6-year-old AMD Duron 800 with a mobo that still had an ISA slot on it. The only reason I replaced it was because the processor died - it was still doing its job perfectly adequately. I now do a lot of sound mixing, and my single-core Athlon 1600 with 1GB RAM is just fine.

Unless you have very specific requirements (and that's mainly gaming), you simply don't need multi-core PCs with huge amounts of RAM, and you don't need the latest Windows, and you don't need the latest Office. This has been true for at least 5 years, and will only become more valid in future.

Yeah, Google can throw a new OS at us. But why bother? What we have works. Until Google can make theirs work better, they lose. And so far they don't have better apps, they don't have a better browser, and it's impossible to run most other apps on their setup. How stupid would you have to be to buy that?

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It is NOT a fucking OS! It's a GUI! Furrfu!

And gawd/ess knows, Linux needs YetAnotherGUI[tm] ... All this GooCroOS thingie is going to do is further fragment the small pool of decent GUI developers.

Marketing will be first up against the wall ...

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Developing world

The real problem with piracy and also with the GNU license is that they stifle the formation of professional software and media industry. You know if you make music or movies in China, you won't be able to sell one dime's worth of it, because it will all be stolen. So sure, amateurs can do stuff in their spare time, but then you get Fred@Youtube, not Lord of the Rings. And similarly, GNU licensing means you are forced to give away all your secrets or ideas for your programs and business plans, and again others will just take it.

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Jobs Halo

@Lutra

<quote>Most people would widely agree that Macs are nice computers and that the operating system is fast, efficient and secure (the latter a really bad rumor spread my Apple, they're easier than Windows to attack).</quote>

Please enlighten us by providing a step-by-step guide on how to hack into a Mac box. I want to know the specific details of the exploit. Oh yeah, and user-engineering doesn't count. It has to be an exploit that runs without user consent. Also, Apple patched the recent Java vulnerability.

Thanks!

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Terminator

GOOGLE VS MICROSOFT SHOWDOWN (???)

The ultimate demise of microsoft will not be replaced by another monopoly. Google admits as much by diving into a crowded distro market, instead of competing head-on with Windows.

The big brand name and the resources behind Chrome will eventually see a large proportion of users jump onboard (at least initially), but if you think a lot of people are wary of Big Brother today, just wait another decade. You'll see Google commanding an incredible amount of space across the spectrum of www/applications, at the same time as governments are pushing through with their most dastardly surveillance plans. That won't jive well with even the most institutionalised in society.

Put simply, the open source movement is truly taking off. The collective power of passionate individuals is being harnessed. In the long term, Google will never be able to make anything significantly better than what the best "competitor" is offering. Their capitalist megalomania will be their downfall; that and the sheer excess of high-quality alternatives.

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Me 2,304,117

"I was on the train a few nights ago when some idiot was telling the whole carriage how he had no intention of being forced to upgrade to Excel 2007 when he was perfectly happy with Excel 2003"

I'm right there with the man--and he's certainly no idiot. If a particular release of an application still does the job you need to do, why the hell succumb to a case of feeping creaturism? Migrating to a new release an application just for the shiny factor is economic foolishness; not only are you out the cost of the software, you're out the time-and-resources cost of having to learn the new release.

In 2009, I'm still using some late-1980s DOS-based applications by choice, BECAUSE THEY DO THE JOB I NEED TO DO. Go thou, and do likewise.

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Coat

And Wine

Now if Google put some resources into getting Wine (or equivalent) to work - and used all their ex-Microsoft employees knowledge of hidden API's,,, then that would truly make it stand out. It would enable free; effectively open source and compatible with a load of known programs. Now that would be nice.

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Anonymous Coward

@Graham Bartlett

"How stupid would you have to be to buy that?"

You'd have to be pretty stupid because it will be free.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: Windows killing

I think many people here are missing the point regarding "Windows killer" OS options, namely that the market to fight over is the new PC owner market (i.e. people new to owning PCs), not the existing market.

Virtually no-one acquires a different OS to run on their existing PC, OK some people try Linux or play with RCs on spare kit but the vast majority buy a PC and leave it as-is until the hardware is obsolete when they buy a brand new PC.

I would also suggest that the vast majority of replacement PC buyers buy a version of they are already using - in most cases it will be either the latest version or the version punted by the manufacturers.

In all these cases there will be a heavy slant towards Microsoft Windows.

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Megaphone

Chrome is MacOS X but cheaper

The difference between Mac and Windows is the UI. Right? And Google is making great in-roads with its highly usable web-UI's, right?

So, Chrome steps in between them in terms of common usability, but it will be cheaper than both of them. A recipe for great success.

(Exactly what BrandX-Linux wanted, but didn't have the cohonis or the UI)

But Chrome is really just a natural progression for Android; like Apple's iPhone is a cut down OS X and both built from common code, Chrome and Android will be similarly grown but in reverse. Dont make the mistake of thinking that a phone is any less of a full computer, albeit physically smaller (Yoda, Luke, X-wing? ...swamp??!!!)

Whether its built on a flavour of Linux, Windows-kernal, Symbian, Beos, DOS or TOS, its the UI that makes it. No-one says Mac OS is just another Linux. The foundation layer of the OS is irrelevant to the users who are buying a mostly-internet-only appliance.

The OS war is fought on the kernel level at server farms; the desktop-ui level at (professional) work; and the web-ui level for more work, rest and play.

It seems if you can get a foothold at the desktop level, you have a window (sorry) of opportunity to push your web-ui.

MS tried it with IE, and is loosing. Adobe eventually realised Flash was just as popular and more capable than the browser. Then MS saw this and thought it better to start a fresh fight with Silverlight - Google and Apple continue with HTML 5.

(Java - who failed you so badly? Oh another bunch of programmers thinking the UI was not important)

"...but all I want is email and a spreadsheet!"

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Jobs Halo

What do we want an OS to do?

I want my OS to be fast, smooth and work 24/7. I want it to support my new hardware and take advantage of all the memory I have on my PC. I want the OS to be secure, but not stifling. I realise that security is something one has to take care of by themselves.

I also want it to be able to play the latest games and run older games. This means the OS has to support legacy applications.

I also want the OS to be easy to develop with, in case I get the urge to be creative, or need to develop some utility.

So far, Windows XP and Win32 has satisfied all of the above.

I would only move to Windows 7 if it ticks all the previous boxes AND makes my PC software run faster than it does already (ie: Visual Studio 2010 compiles faster) or DirectX 11 was so graphically astonishing that I drool watching demos of its capabilities.

Clear?

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Grenade

people really don't want new software at the mo

they want their existing software to respond to new standards, new technological innovations and new ways of working

Problem is though, there isn't really a cost model that will make that profitable to do. I would guess that buying a Windows release would pay for a few years of support for that release, but would not pay for support for this release in perpetuity. That would be silly.

Mac OS ask you to pay for updates (rather than new releases), yet provides a seamless experience between releases. Linux isn't quite there yet for the majority of people.

Google OS, however, is already making all its money elsewhere, and probably doesn't see this as a business that is going to make it an enormous amount of profit. So it might well provide the sort of service users want, at a price people will find easy to pay. Not guaranteed though, and if we look at the small amount of form it's shown, it hasn't blown the competition away with Chrome and Android.

It won't kill Windows until the office and gaming experience is as good as Windows, and people's leases run out on their office PCs. But then it might. Unless people get distracted again.

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Thumb Up

The corporate world will adopt Chrome OS

Ryanair and Easyjet are full of Corporate World types, who just enjoy that they can save money on flight tickets. Sales of Business class tickets on any airline company are tanking. Saving money and getting smaller, better, cheaper laptops is absolutely a universal thing, not only for the mass market, also for corporate types.

You will get £100 Google OS Laptops, running 15-20 hours on a 3-cell battery, fully sunlight readable with the Pixel Qi screen, highly optimized with built-in HSDPA always-on connectivity, connected standby features (rings or blinks an alert light from full standby on incoming emails or calendar alerts), all Google OS laptops will be based on ARM Processors.

Basically Chrome OS = Android 2.0 optimized for Laptops. It will absolutely take over the world, as the absolute best OS for ARM Laptops, instantly putting Microsoft, Apple and Intel out of business.

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Alert

It's not what you think

Why doesn't anyone listen? This isn't a Linux distro *at all*, it's an embedded Linux kernel running Chrome and *nothing else*. Linux apps will not run on it, only web apps. Whether you think that's a good idea or not depends on what percentage of your computer usage is on web apps, but that's what it's all about. Google is not the white knight creating the magic consumer Linux distro.

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Anonymous Coward

@It all lies with the PC vendors

Vendors have pretty slim margins - a return rate of 5% can wipe out their profitability pretty quickly. That's why vendors will continue to stick with Windows - there's no need for wild conspiracy theories about Microsoft paying Vendors off.

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upgrading to shiny new things when you dont need to

The Excel thing..really? Not sure what the point of that was but most of the article screamed..what is new and shiny is good and what is old and tested is bad..even if it works and does everything you need it to. upgrading for the sake of it is just stupid. is there something vital missing from the older version?

This quote also says the same "more focused on design attributes which drive the consumerist desires we all share". You might, I look for features vs price.

get the shiny things! oo same thing but different colours? must pay full price again.

humbug.

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Dead Vulture

Idiot?

The man on the train was talking sense. Office 2007 has a horrible UI, a real inconsistent mishmash of old and new. Office 2003 has a smaller footprint than Office 2000, and is reasonably fast and stable. If someone sends me a .xlsx abomination, I fire up OpenOffice 3 and convert it to .xls.

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Flame

Are you all deaf?

It's an OS that boot's into a browser, think Google Gears for offline, think Ajax applications, think Ubuntu netbook editions, there ya go, it's not gonna kill Windows that beast will commit suicide and it wont kill OSX that's a style and function thing.

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Grenade

"wild conspiracy theories about Microsoft paying Vendors off."

They're not conspiracy theories, they're market reality from a convicted monopolist.

Fortunately for MS, to date no one has had the muscle, motivation and money to take them on.

Unfortunately for MS, Google are one of the few companies that have muscle, motivation, and money. Anything that MS decide to pull from vendors in terms of licence discounts or whatever, Google can more than compensate for financially.

Google can't compensate system builders if MS decide to withdraw early access to OS code, but given the Vista fiasco in retail and corporate, I don't think MS have too many big fans left in the system builders anyway - how would you feel if you'd spent a fortune qualifying a new OS on your hardware, only for the end users who have the skillz to get rid of the factory OS as soon they can.

GoogleOS may or may not succeed, but it is going to cost MS a fortune, at a time when they can ill afford it.

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Who's the idiot?

"I was on the train a few nights ago when some idiot was telling the whole carriage how he had no intention of being forced to upgrade to Excel 2007 when he was perfectly happy with Excel 2003 – and the year is now 2009."

I can't understand why this chap deserves to be branded an idiot for choosing not to do something without a reason, especially when it's probably going to cost him a few hundred pounds - and for what?

If he's an idiot, it must either because he's talking in too loud a voice on a train, or more likely, it's because he hasn't figured out that he can use the most up to date version of OpenOffice absolutely free and still have full access to all versions of his existing office documents.

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The idiot

@Peter Snow good point, and it was the former - he was competing for volume with someone else who sounded like he wanted to pack in his job (everyone else in the carriage nearly joined in). As I understand it it was a corporate upgrade, so the main cost would have been in his productivity as he switched. To be honest, apart from the fact he was a noisy git, I had a lot of sympathy!

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Linux

Re: There will be no Google/Chrome/whatever Os, ok?

I have no idea what it is you were trying to say here. Perhaps it was Steve "I'm gonna fucking kill Google" balmy-Balmer trying to dissuade unknowing readers from seeing the truth.

Perhaps it is a hard ask to get people to change systems but stranger things have happened & as things get harder then Linux may become a standard choice..

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