You are hereGoogle Announces Chrome Operating System

Google Announces Chrome Operating System


By steve - Posted on 08 July 2009

It's (almost) here! Google announces the Google Chrome OS.

What does this mean to you and me? According to Google, "it's our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be."

Here are the facts...

What is Google Chrome OS?

Google Chrome OS is...

  • Open source
  • Lightweight
  • Focused on speed, simplicity, and security
  • Fast booting
  • Minimalist (see the Chrome Browser)
  • Virus and malware free
  • x86 and ARM compatible
  • Free

What is the "Chrome Architecture"?

  • New windowing system
  • Linux kernel
  • Integrated browser (Chrome)
  • Web-centric
  • Built-in Gears support
  • New (not Android)
  • Designed for "people who spend most of their time on the web"
  • Supports netbooks to desktops

Why another OS?

People want...

  • Computers to get better
  • Everything instantly
  • Performance
  • System security
  • Data security
  • Access to anything, anywhere, anytime
  • Simple configuration
  • Worry-free software updates
  • A better computing experience

When will it be available?

  • Open source soon (Fall 2009?)
  • Netbooks in mid-2010

What does this mean?

The information I listed above comes from official Google sources, but what does it all mean to us? Here's what I think...

The Chrome browser has garnered over 30 million regular users in just nine months of availability. The beauty of the browser is that, as a complete re-think of what a browser should be, its design and architecture provide a superior web experience versus either Firefox or Internet Explorer. Its speed and the way it behaves just works beautifully. It is certainly my browser of choice. When I first started using it, there were a few sites that didn't perform properly, but this is no longer the case and it has now gotten to the point where I only use Chrome for normal browsing (I develop web-driven applications and have to have multiple browsers available to me for testing compatibility).

I have a Google Phone (developer version) and it also uses Chrome. I've found it to be the best phone-based browsing experience I've had. It performs far better and more reliably than the Nokia N8xx, Palm, Windows Mobile, or any other browser I've tried.

So, can Google really succeed where Netscape failed? (Netscape is credited with saying, "the browser IS the operating system!")

I think so! Here's why:

  • The Chrome browser acts more like an operating system than a browser in the way it runs internally, so Google is already part way there.
  • The Android OS has laid the groundwork as far as how to build an OS from a Linux kernel so that applications can run reliably and smoothly. This experience applies directly to this project.
  • Google understands Open Source.
  • Google has the experience, tools, and talent to pull this off.
  • The netbook phenomenon has defined a space for net-focused, limited function systems. If these functions can be provided in a system that is more compatible, faster, smoother, cheaper, and easier to use than Windows XP, then it has to potential to really take off.
  • While many netbooks have been sold with Linux pre-installed, a lot of these systems have had Linux replaced with Windows XP shoe-horned in. According to some reports, netbooks with XP pre-installed are now outselling Linux ones. This may be a problem for Chrome OS netbooks as well, since the primary reasons for the shift, according to ASUS is the "familiarity of consumers with the Windows platform". (It may also be that users have that one special application that can only be run in Windows.) If the real issue is a problem with familiarity, then there are at least 30 million Chrome users and 2 million Google Phone G1 users that are ready, willing, and able to use Google Chrome OS netbooks.
  • People are fed up with Windows security and update issues. I mean, really, why should we have to run anti-virus? Shouldn't an operating system be robust enough that it doesn't need a user-space application to protect it? There are plenty of users out there tired of paying $20 to $75 per year for software to try and protect their systems and then having to pay $50 to $100 per year to reload the OS or have viruses removed. Since netbooks are typically the user's second system, if you run XP and want to be protected, you're faced with doubling your cost and effort.
  • Google can define what it will mean to be successful. It doesn't have to match revenue against Microsoft and it doesn't have to achieve any specific market share for Google to be able to claim success. Google simply needs to keep capturing eyeballs and generating click-throughs.
  • Speed!
  • I want it.

Even though Chrome OS is net-centric and supports Gear applications, there will be a need (or is it really an expectation?) that some applications will need to run natively. I really hope there is some kind of custom application support, just like Android has. Ideally, it should be in a language that can be used by developers to easily develop new applications. While developing Android applications in java is easier than developing in some other environments, I'd love to see Google come up with a breakthrough like Microsoft did when it released Visual Basic for developing applications for Windows. When that happened, there was a sudden shift in corporate and custom development from mini-computers and mainframes to Windows-based PCs. Even with all its problems, the combination of VB with Windows (95 followed by 2000 and XP) provided very productive development environment. I think Chrome OS will need something similar to get past the limitations of a "browser only" OS.

While the announcement is being made a year before products with Chrome OS are available, technical folks will be able to start trying the system out, just like we could with Android, well before general release. If the Chrome browser and Android are any indication, it should be a very nice OS indeed.

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