The Internet's abuzz today with news that Google is transitioning its employees away from Windows PCs, allegedly because of security issues. In its place, the buzz continues, employees will have their choice of either Mac or Linux systems. The question further posed by the buzz is whether Google's (unofficially confirmed) decision was the direct result of the "Operation Aurora" attacks, which took advantage of an Internet Explorer vulnerability to siphon some of the search engine giant's intellectual property.
Security concerns are reportedly hastening an internal move by Google to migrate away from Microsoft Windows. According to the Financial Times, Google has been phasing out Windows since January in response to the infamous Aurora attack. The effort may effectively end the use of Windows by Google's more than 10,000 global employees.
Part of the migration is an internal effort by the company to run its own products, such as Google Chrome OS, which will compete with Windows when it is released. Employees have also been moving away from Windows on their own, according to a source cited in the article. "Particularly since the China scare, a lot of people here are using Macs for security reasons," an employee said. "Before the security, there was a directive by the company to try to run things on Google products. It was a long time coming."
If Google wholly jumped onto the Chrome OS bandwagon (and why not?), then that might prod other businesses to take a look at the viability of running their shops entirely in the cloud. There are obstacles, of course. Just to name two: The cloud's reliability isn't necessarily in line with what many businesses demand, in terms of uptime, and many applications such as Microsoft Word continue to offer their full breadth of functionality in a desktop context. But if, within coming years, a cloud-based OS catches on in a business context ... that presents some heavy questions for Microsoft. Would the company attempt to develop a cloud-based Windows of its own? If so, how would it generate revenue, and would that revenue be sufficient to keep Microsoft at its current size?
Microsoft has started pushing with heightened aggression into the cloud space: Web-based productivity applications, Windows Azure, consumer devices and so on. I'm wondering, though, if Microsoft is considering the ultimate step in embracing the cloud, by envisioning scenarios where either all or part of Windows is ported into it.
"This is an overreaction by Google and appears to be an attempt to discredit a competitor by casting aspersions on the Windows OS rather than solving the root cause of the problem," Gartner analyst Neil MacDonald said. "Google fell victim because some number of users were still using IE 6. ... It was an IE 6 zero-day vulnerability that was attacked, not Windows."