The Media Guru

Jul 9, 2009

Google Chrome OS
Google dropped a bombshell on the tech world yesterday. Google services like GMail, GDocs & GTalk went out of beta & Google Chrome OS was announced for release next year.

Why take the most popular Google services out of beta & reveal Google Chrome OS out of the blue? That's because it's almost certain that this Monday, in addition to Windows 7 RTM & Office 2010 beta, the Office Web Apps will be released (as so conveniently hinted by @scobleizer).

Getting back to Google Chrome OS, here's the blog post with the announcement - but I'll be quoting only the most important parts.

Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks.
Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We're designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don't have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.
The software architecture is simple - Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel. For application developers, the web is the platform. All web-based applications will automatically work and new applications can be written using your favorite web technologies. And of course, these apps will run not only on Google Chrome OS, but on any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux thereby giving developers the largest user base of any platform.
Google Chrome OS is being created for people who spend most of their time on the web, and is being designed to power computers ranging from small netbooks to full-size desktop systems.
We hear a lot from our users and their message is clear - computers need to get better. People want to get to their email instantly, without wasting time waiting for their computers to boot and browsers to start up. They want their computers to always run as fast as when they first bought them. They want their data to be accessible to them wherever they are and not have to worry about losing their computer or forgetting to back up files. Even more importantly, they don't want to spend hours configuring their computers to work with every new piece of hardware, or have to worry about constant software updates.

Amidst all the over-hype, mostly by TechCrunch & Mashable, let me clear this misconception once & for all - Google Chrome OS is not your everyday Windows or Linux or Mac OS.
It's just a BROWSER!!!

Installing apps, watching movies, playing music files, heavy gaming, sync devices, encoding, photoshoping etc. you won't be able to do any of that!
Chrome OS is based on a Linux kernel & will be running a single app - Chrome. All the "apps" that'll run on Chrome OS will only be the web-apps - GDocs, GMail, Zoho, Aviary, Buzzword, Picknik, Photoshop Express, etc.
Yep, no Firefox, GIMP, VLC or OpenOffice. Not even your favourite Twitter client!

Because Google Chrome OS is aimed towards netbooks, mostly used for web browsing & light app usage.
The CrunchPad is the perfect device to illustrate this - a multi-touch tablet whose only feature is to get you on the web.

How do you keep an "OS" secure?
Cut off the weakest link, the apps, & lock down the OS, leaving only a single app - Chrome which runs everything sandboxed.
It also means that the OS is maintenance-free, efficient, quick to boot & shut-down.
Hence Google can direct its resources towards improving the OS & Chrome instead of solving compatibility problems. If the web-apps don't work, Google won't be blamed!

How to ensure driver compatibility?
That's were the OSS community comes in play. I suppose Google will be providing Chrome OS with generic drivers which should work straight out of the box like Puppy Linux or Damn Small Linux. & once Chrome OS connects to the Internet, it downloads the rest of the drivers.

& how to make sure your printer or device X works? (supposing Chrome OS supports devices)
Google will probably be leaving this to the OSS community to compile their own drivers.

I suppose by now Google Chrome OS doesn't seen that much attractive. But Google have a few more tricks up their sleeve.

Google Wave
Do I even need to explain that? Best collaboration tool ever.

How do you keep all your data up to date, accessible from anywhere. That's where Gdrive comes in - it should have the same features as DropBox.

Google Gears + HTML5
Offline mode for all your web-apps.

Chrome 3.0 supports extensions, albeit a horrible implementation. Once things straighten up, almost all extensions from Firefox will be ported over to Chrome.

Native Client
The best bit for the last. Native Client will allow x86 code to be executed directly on web-apps! At last some real apps. In my opinion, this will be the killer feature of Chrome.

Privacy & Security
Yep, more than ever, you'll be handing your entire web existence over to Google. Obviously, they'll be monitoring to serve you relevant ads, but to what extent? Illegal file-sharing? Pr0n? Who said it can't be hacked?
Imagine for a while how easy it will be for China to implement its Great Firewall if all the computers ran Chrome OS, a single browser!

Internet Connectivity
If you do not have access to Internet, no Chrome OS for you. Google Chrome OS is targeted towards netbook users, not Third World countries with crappy connections. I suppose the minimum speed for running the web-apps would be 512k/1M.
& suppose one day your Internet is down, even those offline apps won't help you get rid of your web addiction.

In spite of all those web-apps & Native Clients, when you'll still need to go back to your real OS for the heavy work. Take for example AutoCAD, there's no way you con replicate that on the web. That's why it's meant for netbooks.

This one is pretty obvious. Why would even want to install Chrome OS on your desktop if you can install Chrome on any OS! Getting the best of both world!

Will it kill Windows?

ROFLMAO :P How ridiculous! Google Chrome OS is for a niche - portable devices with quick access to the web.
For everything else, you'll still need Windows. & don't forget Microsoft already have Gazelle, the browser OS in the works.

It's instead Mozilla that should be concerned. Chrome with its extensions & Native Client will inevitably entice away Firefox users.
The Linux community should also be concerned that instead of using an existing distro, Google are promoting their own OS, thus undermining their efforts.

The Bottom Line
Unlike what Mike Arrington would like you to believe, the web/cloud is not everything. The biggest hurdle to cloud computing is indeed connectivity. In the real world, not everyone has 8Mbps connections & neither are free Wifi spots available everywhere. Web-apps are good for doing the basics. But if you need to harness the real power of computing, it’s still your good old desktop apps. Yes, Google Chrome OS is a great thing – more competition is always better for users, but it’s just a browser!

Great read - 10 Things We're Dying to Know About Chrome OS

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I_POWER said...

2 words: Google Wave

Bruno said...

I'd love to see any OS knock Windows off their f**king perch. But MS's best weapon is MS Office: Word Excel and Powerpoint are the reason why most PC users do not want to switch OS.

Inf said...

"[...] but it’s just a browser!"

I disagree with that line. Google is trying to bring out its own OS, not to fight with Microsoft or anyone else, but to show people that you can have an OS, with just a browser nowadays.

What I believe GOS (Google OS?) will (try to) do is showing people that whatever you can get on your good old desktop, you can also get online. It wants to show people that you can do the same tasks that you do on your desktop, online.

Forget gaming, I said "tasks". If you want word processing, try Google Docs? Collaboration? Wave. Email? Gmail. Feeds? Google Reader. That's what it's here to demonstrate. One browser can do it all nowadays.

Will it beat Win7? Probably not soon. Eventually? Probably not. But in a rather far future, I believe that your whole desktop will be online, for the better or the worse - we'll have to see about that. :P

Anonymous said...

What a load of horse poop! You've done alot of speculating there and tried to put a negative spin at the end. The fact is that Google haven't released alot of information about what this OS will and will not do. Actually if you look on any popular Linux forums you'll see that most of the Linux community are getting behind this because it will help bring new drivers to Linux and also draw people from Windows to Linux. Will it compete with Windows 7? Damn right it will! Google have enough money and leverage in the computing world to put up a good fight against Microsoft. Google plus the Open Source community will be a very powerful entity. If I worked for Microsoft or Apple I'd be extremely worried right now.

Yashvin said...

carrot has finally post abt it!

I have one question : Do you think that the market will be huge(even for netbooks)? Anyway, its google and even if the OS is not superb, everyone will say "Hey! Mo ena Google Chrome OS!" :P

carrotmadman6 said...

2 words: Native Client

It's getting worse - Office Web releasing this Monday.

The thing is that you can already do the above with your current OS+browser. So Google Chrome OS may turn out to be a huge PR campaign for... Chrome! :P

I think we better wait & watch what Google comes up with, later this year & whether it can kill Windows 7. :)

The market is huge, but Google Chrome OS may turn out to be like an instant-on OS for immediate access to the web while your other OS loads in the background! ;)

Anonymous said...

great post, seeing the tech details of Google Chrome, I belive, Google Chrome can be installed on an old computer like mine with 128 MB RAM, 30 GB HD, and Pentium 3 and it would be great!!! :P

uncrown said...

well i think zat google chrome os wud jst b like the net pc bt wiz no virus and chrome browser

Anonymous said...

hello... hapi blogging... have a nice day! just visiting here....

Yasir said...

Yo, anyone can build his/her own linux kernel based os these days.. Andrews tanenbaum created MINIX and linus torvald created Linux which has xServer(Window System). Now we have several distros :P chrome os will be efficient on mobile devices running symbian OS or java, but on a PC ubuntu/fedora/red hat/suse is still here man..

Nice article and happy blogging

Anonymous said...

It seems to me as if google is pushing an OS whose desktop is created with web technology... or at least runs web applications as if they were desktop applications. If so thats cool but whats wrong with the way it works now. I understand updates would be transparent as the server is all that requires updating and I understand that when applications are served from a central location in cuts down on redundancy but ... I just don't want software to be services. What if office suites were serves and cost 10.0 units of currency/month to use.

Anonymous said...

lol ............
i am having windows 7 now

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