First, let’s assume that the Chrome OS actually makes it beyond a blog post announcement and that the source code will be released for everyone to have a look at it later this year, as planned. Many people view Google’s announcement as the gauntlet thrown down to Microsoft, but others are already debating what this means to the Linux community as a whole.

The Chrome OS is Linux, so it has to be good, right? In his article, “The Incredible Shrinking Operating System,” in the NY Times, Saul Hansell quotes VMware executive (formerly of Microsoft) Paul Maritz:

“The traditional operating system is becoming less and less important,” Mr. Maritz said. “It’s not going to go away, but it is going to shrink.”

If the future is smaller-faster-more flexible, that’s right in the Linux wheelhouse, leaving Microsoft in the unenviable position of the “traditional OS” that Maritz predicts is going away. But not so fast, counters Information Week’s Mitch Wagner, who writes:

“Chrome OS potentially strengthens Microsoft, by sowing confusion among the Linux competition. Where there is confusion in the marketplace, hardware manufacturers and consumers look to the safe choice, and the safe choice is Microsoft.”

Okay, even to an OS agnostic like me, that sounds like some powerful wishful thinking. Since when has Linux not been fragmented? Fragmentation and endless forks and offshoots is part of what Linux is all about. Do you suppose SUSE, Red Hat, and Canonical are really all that concerned with a new entrant in the Linux field? First of all, everyone will want to wait and see what Chrome OS actually does, and if it’s successful, it should prod all of the other communities to continually improve their own projects and take advantage of any good press coming the Linux way.

What are your predictions for how all of this can go? What do you think the OS landscape will look like this time next year?