Google has confirmed that it is working on an operating system called Chrome. It will be a rival to Microsoft Windows, a zillion flavours of Linux, the Apple operating system and any other minority systems of which you might be aware.
A lot has been said across the web about how this will affect Microsoft's market share. My own view is we'll see. An equal amount has been said about how damaging this will be to Linux in the netbook market. That seems likely. It could push the Mac even further into the minority system ghetto.
None of this even touches what's going to be Google's biggest problem if it goes ahead with the announcement as planned.
A long time ago when I started freelancing, the Federal Trade Commission took issue with Microsoft's bundling Internet Explorer with Windows. The case went on for ages, it got mixed up with other stuff like Microsoft's Passport idea and it was settled, bit by bit - Microsoft's confirmation that the passport issue was settled is here, there are other sources around the Web. Anyway, as far as America is concerned this is pretty much a dead case.
In Europe it's different. That might not make much difference to American readers - in fact it probably shouldn't, otherwise why bother having separate judiciaries? But in Europe, the anti-trust feeling has been strong enough to lead Microsoft to issue the next version of Windows without Internet Explorer.
This is going to be important to Microsoft. It's likely to lose a lot of goodwill from consumers who suddenly have to buy or otherwise acquire a new browser which they perceive as part of the OS anyway. Microsoft would probably agree with them but its hands are tied.
Into this market Google is about to walk. Let's assume delivery dates are met. Let's assume it gets a foothold in the market. These are big assumptions I grant you - but let's make them. Then let's take a step back: not only is Google likely to tie its browser rigidly to its OS, it hasn't even had the nous to give it a different name. Is Europe going to like this rigid tie-in? History suggests not.
And if Google does have to separate the two out in Europe then there will be many confused consumers finding their Netbooks won't work because they have Chrome OS installed, but not Chrome Browser. Resellers will have to ask whether people would like Chrome with their Chrome. They will have to explain that buying something with Chrome isn't good enough, you need Chrome as well.
I'd pay for tickets to watch customer service departments dealing with that.