While some see Google's Chrome OS as a competitive overlap for Apple and Google, I see it as a product specifically designed to compete with Windows in the high-volume, low-margin netbook market. It's a potentially disruptive force in the Windows PC market aimed at fracturing Microsoft's command and control of this product tier.
One would be hard pressed to think of a more effective target than the release of a no-cost OS into a product tier in which margins per unit are practically nil and provides the specific functionality desired by consumers shopping in this tier of the PC market. People shopping for netbooks aren't planning to do graphic design or scientific analysis on the devices. They are shopping for a low-cost PC that provides Internet access and productivity suite functionality. Google provides Internet-based solutions including cloud-based productivity products.
Apple is quickly moving to expand the presence of iPhone OS products in the marketplace and Google is following what might be seen as a similar but actually different path. This is not a market in which Apple and Google will be competing for the same customers. The much-anticipated Apple tablet is not a netbook nor do I believe will it be intended to compete in the familiar laptop product tiers. Rather, I expect a product that will further the monetization of hardware, the commoditization of software and deliver iPhone OS apps to the end-user as efficiently and profitably as possible. I suspect we will see a product that serves as an always connected Internet device for the delivery of movies, music, books and information and provides a productivity space for the user larger in size than the iPhone and iPod touch.
Google and Apple are on different paths and the Chrome OS will be much more of a competitor to Microsoft's presence in the netbook market than it will present a challenge to Apple in the emerging digital device product segment Apple is desiring to create and exploit for the delivery of iTunes store products to the consumer.