Google's recent announcement of open source development of their Chrome Operating System appears to be a good old fashioned "throw down" challenge to Microsoft's dominance of the desktop OS - and its position as the fundamental point of departure for enterprise systems architecture.
Microsoft "overshooting" presents a real opportunity for Google
While we can be sure that Microsoft certainly has the resources to defend its position, we could argue that they have a bit of a "barrier to exit" from the current paradigm in the form of the enterprise license model - a model that they have managed to make ubiquitous on desktops across the US Federal government. My favorite guru of IT Futures, Vaughan Merlyn, recently posted the following comment on his blog IT Organization Circa 2017:
"Clayton Christensen, in his classic book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail” points out that over time, through a successive series of minor innovations, products tend to overshoot a their performance needs beyond which the typical user can absorb. (How much of Windows do you really need and use? How many features of MS Office go unused by all but the hardiest of users?) This overshooting of product capabilities leaves great openings for new market entrants to come in well below current performance thresholds with products that fully meet the needs of the typical user, without the encumbrances of the bells and whistles – often derisively referred to as “bloatware.” That is the play being made successfully today with Netbooks. That is also the play, I believe, Google made previously with Google Apps, and is now making with Chrome OS. But in the latter case, its not just a stripped down OS (with the speed and simplicity benefits that brings), but an OS designed from the outset for a Web-based universe."
So, one could reasonably argue that Federal CIO's should be thinking about how to "bake in" a web-centric OS model like Google Chrome. With massive investments underway in health IT, and other programs of national importance that will rely on a robust, web-centric, and cost effective Federal IT architecture - now is the time to get ready to exploit this new thinking.