Can Google lead CIOs to the Linux desktop?

Google is moving its employees to Mac and Linux, but its influence on CIOs is more likely to be felt with Chrome and Android.

Editors' note: Google is using a distribution of Ubuntu Linux that it calls Goobuntu.

Two million businesses have "gone Google," according to the search giant's latest marketing. To date that has meant embracing Google Apps. Will it come to mean embracing Linux, as well?

Chrome: Google's desktop disruption?

Google, after all, is reportedly moving away from Microsoft's Windows operating system and is now requiring employees to choose Mac OS X or Linux. It's not a stretch to believe that Google's sales force will talk up Mac and Linux while talking CIOs out of their dependence on Microsoft Office and Exchange.

But is Google a leading indicator or an anomaly?

Much as I'd like to argue otherwise, Google is an anomaly, for many of the reasons offered by ZDNet's Jason Perlow. In particular, Perlow points out the peculiar nature of Google's workforce:

Given the fact that so much of Google's development is in open source, and all of their line of business apps are cloud-based, it stands to reason that given the bleeding edge levels of open source adoption which the company enjoys, they can very easily transition its internal desktop users to both Mac and Linux.

Google, in short, is different. Really different.

While open-source software has outpaced and perhaps helped to fuel a general technology recovery, Google's adoption of open source is unique and unparalleled. No one uses and creates more open-source software than Google. The company even manages its highly proprietary Macs with an open-source configuration management tool called Puppet.

So don't look to Google to drive Linux (or Mac) "desktop' adoption. Google likely can't change calcified opinions of "what a desktop OS should look like" (i.e., Windows), but it is actively defining the future of that desktop with two open-source initiatives:Google Android for mobile and Google Chrome for Web browsing.

Google Chrome now stands at 7.1 percent global market share, according to Net Applications , with an even greater percentage of early adopters, according to ReadWriteWeb.

Google is pushing the envelope on browser innovation, getting more and more people comfortable with the idea of living their lives in a browser (surrounded by Search, Gmail, Picasa, etc.).

Simultaneously, Google's Android operating system for mobile devices is blowing out its numbers , initially taking its lead from Apple's iPhone but now surpassing it in many ways. Through Android Google is helping to get the world used to a mobile "desktop," one without a desk.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs this week argued that we're approaching the post-PC era. And, as much as Apple's iPad may be informing this vision, Google's Chrome and Android may actually have a wider, more lasting impact. Google may stand largely alone in moving its entire organization over to Macs and Linux, but it's ensuring a crowd will be following it onto a speedy, Linux-based mobile Web with its other initiatives.

About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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