In February 2009 Google unveiled an operating system it promised would change the world. A platform based entirely in Cloud, completely free and blazingly fast. Tongues wagged, Google had finally stepped directly on Windows' toes and announced its intention to take over our desktops.
One year on with missed deadlines, momentum slowing to a crawl and Android starting to dominate smartphones and tablets it begs the question: what on earth is going on with Chrome OS?
The latest delay came just this month with Google CEO Eric Schmidt using the Web 2.0 summit to admit the platform won't be available for at least the "next few months." Speaking to eWeek a Google spokesperson stressed "We are very happy with the progress of Google Chrome OS, and we'll have more details to share later this year." I'd suggest this runs a bit hollow.
Dell has confirmed it has "no imminent plans to launch Chrome OS netbooks… at this time", Acer was forced to come out and admit it had no plans to preview the platform at Computex and as recently as June Chrome OS head Sundar Pichai was stating the operating system would be released "mid fall". So what changed?
Whatever Google's current failings with Chrome OS, they are more than being countered by the phenomenal take-up of Android.
NPD Mobile Phone Tracking figures state Android was installed on 44 per cent all smartphones sold in Q3, a massive 11 per cent rise on Q2 and a significant lead over iOS which moved from 22 per cent to 23 per cent over the same timeframe. By contrast RIM's BlackBerry OS dropped from 28 per cent to 22 per cent. It is a quite breathtaking rise to prominence.
The flip side is Android has expanded beyond its original remit for mobile phones with it now a mainstay in the tablet sector and even appearing on some netbooks like the Toshiba AC100. It would be fair to say it has expanded so far we are unsure what space it leaves for Chrome OS. Schmidt tried to clarify this recently saying Android is for touch-based mobile devices and Chrome OS is for keyboards, but devices like the AC100 prove this isn't strictly true. It is also inherently problematic when a CEO needs to come out and explain what an OS is for just months ahead of its launch.
Android may have been Google's highpoint of 2010, but it has grown so big it could swallow Chrome OS with it.