Google: the latest control-freak on the block

This morning’s Observer column.

A basic principle of warfare is never to fight on terrain chosen — or dominated — by your enemy. This principle seemed to explain why, as Google rose to challenge Microsoft as the world’s most powerful technology company, the one market it eschewed was that for operating systems. That territory was dominated by Bill Gates & Co and so Google concentrated on building dominance in areas where Microsoft was feeble or non-existent: search, cloud computing, web applications, advertising. It all seemed so sensible.

But then last July, Google gave notice that it had changed tack by revealing it was working on a radical new operating system called Chrome OS. Just over a week ago, the product was officially launched at the company’s Californian HQ, which left the technology community intrigued and puzzled, and the mainstream media salivating over the prospect of a head-to-head battle between Google and Microsoft…