Google Ditching Windows for Macs, Linux?

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A report in the Financial Times has Internet giant Google apparently working to “phase out” the use of Microsoft Windows on its employees’ computer, with newly hired employees being given a choice between Apple Macintosh systems running Mac OS X or PCs running Linux. The report quotes a Google employee citing security concerns about Windows as a major factor in the decision. While the report doesn’t say Windows has been banned, it does assert that setting up a new Windows-based machine requires CIO-level approval.

In the wake of the much-publicized cyberattacks carried out against Google’s China operations—which exploited then-undisclosed holes in Windows Internet Explorer—Google has been much more concerned about security on its employees’ systems, particularly to the degree they may be vulnerably to attacks via email and instant messaging. However, the move also apparently coincides with Google’s emphasis on running its own operating using Google’s own products, and that includes the company’s forthcoming Chrome OS operating system, which will initially be targeted at netbooks.

However, reports in industry press suggesting that Google has barred Microsoft Windows or is somehow phasing it out of the company are misguided. According to figures from firms like Net Applications, Microsoft Windows still runs on something like four out of every five personal computers on the planet: Windows represents the largest target platform for Google products—including its cloud-based applications, but also desktop applications like Chrome, the Google toolbar, Google Earth, Picasa, SketchUp, Google Talk, the Google Desktop search application. Google is unlikely to drop development of those applications and tools—or force its programmers to cease development and testing on Windows platforms and browsers—over security concerns.

In the wake of the cyberattacks against Google’s China operations—and, undoubtedly, many other attacks that have not made as much press—Google might want to reduce the security exposure of its less-technical employees. However, it’s not clear that moving employees to Linux or (particularly) Mac OS X is much of a counter-measure: so far, no mainstream computer operating system has proven immune to security breaches, it’s just that the vast majority of attacks currently target Windows.

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