Google's 'War' With Microsoft is a Shell Game

The tech world is atwitter: Google just announced a new operating system, which will compete with Microsoft Windows. The only problem? It's not a new operating system, and it doesn't compete with Microsoft Windows.

The new "Google Chrome OS" is a nifty instance of branding, we'll give it that. But stripped of the marketing talk, here's what Google just introduced: A distribution of the Linux operating system, plus a "new windowing system" and a copy of Google's Web browser.

In geek parlance, Google built a "shell," not an OS. The kernel and, almost certainly, a large chunk of the "userland" programs that make up an OS come from elsewhere.

But it's in Google's interests to puff up its new technology. The press loves a nice, simple fight between tech industry giants; Google's branding is thus sure to generate loads of free buzz for Google's "operating system," as programmer and longtime tech pundit Dave Winer has pointed out. Winer:

Let's be dispassionate. Before yesterday's announcement: 1. Chrome ran on Linux. 2. Linux was an operating system. 3. Linux ran on netbooks. However, most people want [Windows] XP on their netbook, not Linux. That was true yesterday and it's still true today.

Maybe Google will eventually develop its new system into something truly revolutionary. Or maybe it will fall by the wayside like Google Base, Google Notepad — or the version of its last operating system, "Android," which was to run on the netbooks now targeted by Google Chrome OS.

No matter what happens, at least one group of users will be thrilled: The press. (Talk amongst yourselves!)