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Google Chrome Operating System – Able to Promise Big Because it Delivers Small?

chrome On Tuesday night, Google announced its new Chrome operating system, with the code due for release later this year, and netbooks that run it due in the second half of 2010.  Some of the announcement is sure to be marketing speak, as Google’s announcement seems to promise the world.  Or does it?  Is Google able to promise what it does, because the OS itself is actually going to deliver very little?

Let’s take a look at what Google promises:

  • Open source
  • Lightweight
  • Fast – start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds
  • Minimal user interface "to stay out of your way"
  • Most of the user experience takes place on the web
  • Secure –  users won’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates
  • Runs within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel
  • All web-based applications "will automatically work"
  • Apps will run not only on Google Chrome OS, but on any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux
  • Designed to power computers ranging from small netbooks to full-size desktop systems

The announcement also indicates that the operating system is "created for people who spend most of their time on the web."  To me, this operating system sure sounds like a complete reworking of the concept of what an OS should be.  It sounds like Google is aiming to develop a barebones OS, with the web browser providing the "muscle."  With more and more applications being web-based, this sure seems like the trend of the future.  It would also explain how Google is able to make such bold promises concerning security.  If the operating system is just a platform for the browser, where the real work is done, then the operating system itself isn’t where the security dangers would necessarily rest.  Those dangers would be in the browser. This also suggests, though, that the Google Chrome OS won’t replace Windows, Mac, or Linux operating systems any time soon.  While more and more applications move to the web and to the browser, there are still plenty of applications that still run locally.  In addition, while there are many browser-based games, higher end games aren’t ready for the browser yet.  Services like OnLive and Gaikai promise to bring high-end games to low-end computers, by running games remotely on their servers, and streaming them to you.  They are still promises though, with no proven results. What do you think?  A large portion of my computing is done in the browser, but I have a hard time seeing other applications make the transition from the desktop to the browser.  Or is this just a start for Google, with later versions of the OS expanding into more traditional areas?