A few days ago a contact tipped me off to the possibility that Google might not just be developing an operating system for netbooks, but that the company could actually be involved in building a netbook that it would sell under the Google brand name. You know, sort of like it’s expected to do with the Google Nexus One cellphone soon.
The reasoning is pretty solid: If you want something done right, you need to do it yourself. So far Google has been taking the Microsoft approach in the cellphone market with its Google Android operating system. Google makes the software and works with hardware manufacturers to make sure it can run on as many devices as possible. But that means that those hardware partners get to tweak things to their hearts’ content, and in the end the user experience may not be exactly what Google had anticipated.
And so that leads the company to try the Apple model: design the OS and the hardware to ensure seamless interaction between the two.
Google officials have already said that the company is working with hardware makers to design new devices that will run Chrome OS. They made a big deal of suggesting that the new devices would have larger keyboards and displays than current generation netbooks, to offer a better web experience. But you know what the best way to make sure that the hardware meets your vision? Build it yourself… or hire someone to build it for you.
TechCrunch apparently got the same tip that I did, and then a few more, because Michael Arrington reports that “multiple sources” confirm that Google has been “talking to at least one hardware manufacturer about building a netbook for Google directly.”
There aren’t a lot of details about the device yet. But it will reportedly offer mobile broadband capabilities and it may be bundled with a 3G data plan and sold by telecoms. It’s not due out until late 2010, and it’s possible that we could see other devices from third party companies running Chrome OS before the Google netbook actually hits the streets.
Of course, there’s still a chance that this is just a concept device, a rumor, or something else. In other words, it might never come to market. But if it does, it’ll be interesting to see whether the Microsoft model or the Apple model works better for Google. In other words, will the company have more success selling its own hardware or licensing its software to third party companies? Or will both crash and burn because people expect more from a PC operating system than a glorified web browser?