Google OS

23 11 2009

This week Google gave a preview of its upcoming operating system, ChromeOS. It also open sourced the project as ChromiumOS and the Chromium Browser (Google Chrome). Now then, apart from confusing the hell out of everyone with its naming (including me, so if my understanding is wrong, what did you expect?), this has been talked about as either the Microsoft Windows killer or a waste of time. Personally I think its neither.

I downloaded the source code and built it. I then installed it on my netbook. I thought I would spend a few hours playing with it but after 30 minutes there wasn’t anything left to play with. If you have been wondering why there seems to be a lack of screenshots on the interweb its because there is precious little to take a screenshot of.

Basically, Google’s OS is a completely stripped down linux variant (they are working with Canonical of Ubuntu fame), it boots very quickly (I got mine booting in something like 10 seconds) but thats because it doesn’t boot anything other than the bare minimum needed to run a very limited list of hardware and the Google browser, Chromium. Once running everything is in the ‘cloud’, its all on line, apps, data, the lot, its all on the net. No local storage.

The browser has matured into a ‘full’ front end to everything you want to do with your netbook, to be honest I don’t see anything really new here, in fact I’m not sure Google OS gives so much as it takes away, less is more, more or less.

I think the UI concept has some limitations, but these are offset by the netbook, you wont run 10 apps at the same time because your netbook doesn’t do that, its really 1 or 2 things at a time and the UI (not just Google’s but the others too) handles this quite well. In fact you could give Google an extra point here for having applets inside the bigger frame, such as Google Talk or a notepad.

Its all online, it will be interesting to see how well unreliable connections are handled, writing your presentation on your netbook on the train to work sounds great. Its something we have all done. But today when the train goes through a tunnel I don’t lose the connection to my hard drive, tomorrow with Google’s OS I would lose my connection to the cloud, without some clever caching and recovery at best I will have to wait for the connection to return, at worst, well lets see.

You can read more everywhere about it. I think its good, it shows what you can do if you focus on your purpose and nothing else. Is it going to kill Windows? No! Its not going to even raise more than a ‘oh yeah we have heard of it’ from the boys at Microsoft and why should it?

But, in a years time when they launch it with the hardware as well, remember that all they have let out in the wild is the open source project, well then I think it will be time to sit up and take notice. A proper light weight OS, no frills, on hardware built for the task. Think of the applications. Google’s web browser tablet, news reader, media player, cell phone, video phone… this is just the first showing of the first building block of Google’s OS. Only a fool would write it off based on this, lets see what Google does next.

So is Microsoft going to be looking at the next 12 months and wondering what the landscape for discrete devices might look like if Google makes its play? Yeah, I think so.

I read today that, shock and surprise, its likely that Google OS and Android (Google’s OS for cell phones and mobile devices – you can see the overlap) will converge, read here

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