Not satisfied with Google.com or the Chrome browser, Google is now hoping to control the OS.
The campaign started with the phone OS (Android), and while Android hasn’t shown particular promise in unseating the other major players in the phone OS market, Google isn’t deterred from trying to lock in users for life on one OS or another. This week, Google announced its plans to launch Chrome OS, a new operating system for netbooks that Google hopes to launch within a year.
There are many benefits here for Google. One of the chief of them is the potential boost for Google’s oldest cash cow: paid search. Chrome OS is geared to operate from with computing cloud, which is to say from the Internet; expect ubiquitous Google search bars across Chrome OS applications that let you jump easily from computing activity to Google search.
While it may seem early to consider your paid search campaign, the topic is still worth a moment’s thought.
After all, the best paid search campaigns take into account which traffic arrives from what traffic source. Who searches from Yahoo or Google, for instance, and what kind of search traffic arrives from Firefox, Internet Explorer, or Safari. It then serves up unique landing pages, ad copy, and other campaign components to each market segment. And if the operating system will become a new major source of paid search traffic, it’s helpful for marketers to start thinking now about who would arrive via the Google OS.
Again, Chrome OS will be designed to operate on netbooks, computers with small screens and full keyboards, halfway between some recent cell phones and a small laptop. According to Jim Wong, president of IT products global operation for Acer Inc., one of the first manufacturers to feature the OS preinstalled, “Netbooks are designed to be compact in size and easy to connect to the Internet wherever you go.” So one of the best ways to understand where the Chrome OS will have an impact on search is to understand a related issue: where netbooks stand to gain the most market penetration.
Here are a few key sectors, with some comments on the search advertisers who may want to reach them:
- Students. Some PPC (define) advertisers like to reach students, particularly those to whom parents have transferred over some form of purchasing power. While students may want a Mac or a PC in their room for gaming and high-powered computing, a netbook would be great for taking notes in class, social networking, and e-mailing. But since an external keyboard on an iPhone may serve the purpose for nearly half of these functions, the student market is by no means a slam-dunk.
- Grandparents. A netbook is a perfect tool for many in the boomer-and-older set, who increasingly need to stay connected via e-mail, chat, Facebook, and Twitter if they want any connection with their grandchildren, but who often find computers (PCs and Macs) expensive to buy and maintain and difficult to learn. And advertisers generally love grandparents, as long as they’re comfortable shopping online for themselves and their families.
- Low-income U.S. households. Some of those estimated 20 percent of user households without a PC or Mac may be open to an inexpensive netbook, particularly if it’s bundled with cheap Internet access. Meanwhile, many households with one PC may consider a netbook as an affordable second computer.
- Nonprofit organizations. Even with discount pricing from Microsoft, nonprofits may be tempted to make a switch to netbooks, as many are teetering on the brink of insolvency.
- Global consumer markets. Given the disparity between the potential and actual global Internet audience, PPC search advertisers with an eye on global expansion may be pleased to see an increase in the global penetration of Internet-enabled computers. Just to take one market where this kind of global expansion could help, consider China. It’s a major producer of PCs with huge portions of the population who have yet to purchase a PC.
- Businesses in overseas markets. Some overseas businesses don’t use computers to manage their own businesses yet. Web-based applications could spring up in dozens of languages if business owners start using inexpensive netbooks and want those applications to help run their businesses.
Some markets won’t be impacted by the rise of netbooks anytime soon. The corporate desktop won’t change soon, for instance. Meanwhile, on-the-go-executives tend to rely on iPhones and BlackBerrys for communications, and because of the importance of virtual private network (VPN) connectivity, mobile executives won’t swarm to Chrome netbooks until the links to their corporate messaging systems have been forged.
But as netbooks continue to penetrate the market, Google Chrome OS will have a greater opportunity to increase its user base. Search marketers should be prepared.