I’ve lost interest in a lot of the writers at ZDNet lately, mostly because I have been finding the stories they are writing about done before anyone at ZDNet gets to writing them. (Except for Mary-Jo Foley, she seems to have the inside track on Microsoft, yet she doesn’t appear to be a lap dog to the powers that be in Redmond – I like both ideas in that sentence.)

But I do still look around now and then, and have found a small tidbit that I was surprised by, as no one else was talking about this, that I’ve seen, and yet the original article was two days ago – must be the lethargy of the Thanksgiving meal and the magic of tryptophan.

The title of the piece was a shocker, obviously meant to perk up anyone doing some reading on the fly – and it did. “60% of businesses could dump Windows for Chrome OS”.

Pretty startling, until you gather your wits in about 10 seconds, and realize that there is no way that any sort of meaningful survey, formal or informal, could have been taken that would give those results. Plus the fact that the news, as admitted in the article, up to this point, has been all over the map, in the typical style of the boys from Redmond.

They call it FUD. Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.

Depending on who you are, I’m not certain that you can genuinely say that there is any fear, except at the bottom of Steve Ballmer’s heart. But he must know that nothing like that will happen quickly, and he’ll have plenty of time to fight back. The thing that Google has on their side is not having 25 years of residual failures and the enmity of customers that they have caused.

But Jason Hiner, from ZDNet, states that his source for the article is the NY Times, so we must have some hard news coming, right? Well, it’s not altogether certain where the news is on the Mohs scale, but it sounds like it could at least be correctly reported.

The latest information comes from a New York Times report that cites its source as Linus Upson, Chrome chief and Google vice president of engineering. The new report says Google recently deployed new systems loaded with Chrome OS to internal Google employees, including Sergey Brin. The Google co-founder reluctantly made the exchange.

However, the kicker in the Times story was this: “Mr. Upson says that 60 percent of businesses could immediately replace their Windows machines with computers running Chrome OS. He also says he hopes it will put corporate systems administrators out of work because software updates will be made automatically over the Web.”

Two things here – sys admins may have to change their titles, but people will still be needed to fix the bonehead moves of the typical user, until Google finds a way to make a computer completely idiot proof. At that point, the second wave of advanced idiots will step in…

Keep in mind that the Times is paraphrasing Upson here and not quoting him directly, but this is an extremely ambitious goal that is being attributed to Google’s head honcho of Chrome OS. It’s also a loaded statement and it’s worth trying to unpack it.

The Chrome OS is aimed at computers that are essentially just Web browsers and don’t store any of their data locally but keep it all in the cloud — especially Google’s cloud. So, Upson’s statement is assuming that most companies won’t just be using Chrome OS but will also being using Google Apps (or a competitor such as Zoho) for handling all business email and documents.

The other part of Upson’s statement is that because the Chrome OS will automatically handle all software updates behind the scenes without user intervention that it will “put corporate systems administrators out of work.” It’s interesting to hear Google make a brazen statement like this, since this has previously been suspected to be one of their motives but has never been stated openly. The public revelation aside, systems administrators do a lot more than just push software updates so this statement is pretty inflammatory from that perspective.

The idea that business will change from a local storage model to one of complete offsite storage is preposterous. Everyone is so paranoid about data security already that the idea of releasing all ability to contain a business’s data is unthinkable. There will always be high level stuff that will be kept local, and the various backups local as well. It will need more than just a browser to properly use it.

Since Chrome OS is primarily aimed at netbooks, it’s laughable to think of 60% of businesses deploying netbooks to their employees. As a recent TechRepublic poll showed, the vast majority of businesses still give their employees desktops and not laptops. And, of the corporate employees that get laptops, an even smaller percentage get netbooks.

I’m not sure this is such a leap of faith if you take the first one – not much onsite storage. If you eliminate that, a netbook could do much, and any lag in computation could easily be blamed elsewhere – such as on the network, or “problems with rain in the cloud”.

The other problem with Chrome OS aiming at netbooks is that the netbook market is under attack from smartphones and tablets. Upson said, “We are starting with laptops and we will expand in both directions.” In other words, Chrome OS will scale down to tablets and scale up to desktops.

So, at least for the moment, it looks like Chrome OS is back on for Google. I don’t think it’s time for systems administrators to start shaking in their boots just yet.

Google is looking at a long haul, and I think it’s best bet would be to continue customizing a complete version of Linux. If it could have a simplified Linux, with a complete help system (something absolutely no Linux distribution has thus far, except possibly RedHat, as I haven’t seen that lately) – it could get people to change.

Imagine something like Ubuntu with a help system that far surpasses the help system of Windows (that has been getting pushed further and further into the background since about Windows 98SE). Something that actually had context sensitive help, kept current (which Windows has never really been), and usable on many devices.

If all of those things were met, along with what variants of Linux already do, backed by Google personnel on the other end of the phone (for a price, of course, but not the ridiculous model that Microsoft has allowed) when real help is needed, Microsoft could start counting is days of usefulness on a single year calendar.

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