Welcome to celebrity death match; high tech style. After years of dancing around each other like a couple of heavy weight boxers; Google just threw an old fashioned round house punch at Microsoft by announcing that, yes, it will be launching its own operating system soon. It will be built around their Chrome browser and primarily be used for the netbook market (you know, the only niche of PC sales that are doing anything right now).
Forget the boxing analogy, however. Google has really laid this one out more like a chess master.
First, it offered its free web-based Microsoft Office knock-offs; Google Docs & Spreadsheets.
More recently, it launched it's Chrome browser which is up to 30 million users now in less than a year's time.
Just this week, it removed the "beta" moniker from gmail (it's only been around five years now) which is code for enterprise-ready.
Google's Chrome O/S is expected to come out sometime in the second half of 2010.
Google says this is a totally different animal than its mobile operating system, Android, although they do anticipate some overlap between the two products (they would have to overlap, I would think).
Bottomline: netbooks and especially mobile devices are the two major growth areas for Internet access tools. Desktops and laptops are out, netbooks and smartphones are in. While the former is still king of the cowboys, those numbers are waning while the latter is spreading like wildfire. 20% of all web usage is now through mobile device now - and growing.
It may be six to ten moves away, but one can't help but think that eventually Google will be the one to lean back and say "Check mate!".