Even more speculation on Google Chrome OS

Argh, there have been about a zillion articles and blog posting declaring the future of computing and a coming "OS War" between Microsoft and Google. Paaalease. Although I myself am writing yet another piece of content related to Google Chrome OS, I feel compelled to do so because the vast majority of everything I've seen so far has simply been rubbish... and I don't often call things rubbish.

What is Google Chrome OS?

On the public face, so far Google Chrome OS is nothing more than vaporware mentioned in a blog posting by two Google middle management.

It appears it will be just enough operating system to get a web browser to run so one can do all of their online stuff... you know... using Google's Browser and Google's online services. Don't worry, you can use any software that is written using web standards but obviously the Google services and APIs to those services will be heavily favored.

It will be based on the Linux kernel but from the few brief paragraphs of the Google blog posting it appears to be just enough userspace stuff to run the web browser and any add-on support applications for online multi-media.

Why is Google creating an OS?

Good question. My guess is that the Chrome Browser isn't doing as well as they hoped and they want to find a way to get it on those magical hot selling devices... the netbooks... and since there seems to be turmoil regarding the OS on netbooks, it was an opening. Most netbooks are shipping with Windows XP which is something Microsoft wants to die... and Windows Vista / Windows 7 doesn't seem appropriate for netbooks. Linux works well on netbooks but none of the hardware makers involved really think Linux is close enough yet to a Joe / Jane Sixpack OS yet. In fact several of the netbook makers have had some disparaging things to say about Linux.

Google claims that what is out there now is too complicated. People don't want to run desktop applications on their netbooks nor use it like they would a traditional laptop or desktop. Consumers want less options and less choice and just want to run a web browser... and all of the services that can be shoehorned in via the web.

In reality Google doesn't seem to be doing anything new... just take Linux and beat it into the shape you want. Any major Linux distro maker could do the same thing in a few months. Which leads to...

When does it come out?

If the blog post is to be believed, Fall of 2010. What? Over a year from now? Of course that is if whatever development schedule they make for it doesn't run into any delays... not that I would expect it to given my previous statement about any major Linux distro maker being able to come up with the same thing in a few months.

Why did Google let the cat out of the bag so early?

That's another good question. The only possible answer I can think of is that they want to use the Google name and the idea of "the next big thing from Google" to discourage netbook makers from signing deals with other, mostly smaller, companies. Why? Because adoption of the Google Chrome browser and interest in the Chromium project hasn't been what Google had hoped / planned for and no other netbook OS provider has latched onto the Chrome browser. If I'm even partly correct, shame on Google, they should NOT have announced it... and should have waited until they actually have something to show.

Is there something to show? It doesn't appear so... especially if it is a year away. Ok, let me back off of that idea for a second... sure they need time to make deals and get software in the pipeline of device makers... so maybe that will take some additional time... but really nothing to show now... no product demos or presentation videos? And it is a year from now? You do remember this is "internet time", right?

Why all of the fuss?

All of the fuss is because Google said it and Google has monopoly status in the search engine market and they have money... money that could potentially challenge Microsoft. So far Microsoft has been getting their ass kicked by Google in search and to a somewhat lesser degree, online services. The IT press and the Linux fanboy community (which I am a member of) have this fantasy that Google will somehow be going after the Operating Systems market and taking a full run at Microsoft's monopoly... and THAT is the reason for all of the articles about a short blog post.

Forget about Google challenging Microsoft in the OS market space. That ain't going to happen. Google just wants to get more people using the Chrome browser and if at all possible get Chrome OS and Android to be complementary technologies that help each other grow market share.

If Google can be successful with Android in the cell phone market they can use that success and the recently forged deals between cell networks and netbook makers to get Google Chrome on the netbook.

Their vision of the future of the netbook is completely backwards... at least from my vision of what consumers want the netbook future to be. Consumers want faster and more powerful netbooks for as little money as possible that compete with traditional laptops and desktops in functionality. The cell network companies seem to have this vision of a cell phone in a netbook form factor that is about as powerful as a the current crop of cell phones just with a bigger screen. They want the software stack to be very limited... retaining as much control as possible... and the opportunity to sell additional services / software as add-ons. They want what Apple has in the iPhone and the App store.

This is where Google's dream comes in... that they can be the one to forge the deals with the netbook makers and the cell network providers to be the big name that rivals Microsoft and Apple... to provide that scaled down OS that can run on a vastly underpowered netbook with a price point approaching a cell phone. Is that what you want? It isn't what I want.

Or maybe not...

I don't have a crystal ball. I've just been a follower of the IT industry before there was one. I don't dislike Google and I really appreciate all they do to contribute to the free and open source software movement but lets face it... they have grown into a near monopoly position in the Internet search market and they have been trying to leverage that into all kinds of areas where they simply have no business being. Yeah, I know they have all of that money and they have to do something with it. I think they should stick to what they know and only get into business areas that directly compliment that rather than all of these tangents that are basically close to impossible to be successful in.

Does that mean they will fail with Android, Chrome, or Chrome OS... or any of the dozen or so other projects they have on the stove at the moment? Not really. Given their money and talented employees, both on the technical side and the marketing and management sides, they will probably have reasonable success but at what cost to many of the smaller, more innovative companies with better ideas?

They want to be in the middle of the exciting changes coming as computing moves more into mobile... but are they the best company for the job or should they stick to search engine technology? I think you know what my answer to that is. Microsoft's Bing television ads (although not necessarily the actual Bing implementation / service) are good evidence that Google has quite a bit of work left to do in the search category.

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Big difference in Monopolies

There is an enormous difference in the Microsoft monopoly in operating systems to the "Google monopoly" in search. To transition away from Microsoft Windows, it takes medium and large size companies months of planning, retraining, reintegration of old or replacement software, and possibly millions of dollars in transition expenses that may take years to replace by the cheaper total cost of FOSS. However, with search engines, all it takes is for an individual to go to a different website. It takes 10 seconds, bookmark it, and no expense.

We should realize that Google's entire existence is extremely fragile and should appreciate their support for FOSS. And given their core use of FOSS, even if they were to deal Microsoft a mortal wound, which I think not possible with Chrome OS, then we still have essentially nothing to fear from Google.

One thing you left out

I think the reason it's going to take a year -- and the only reason I'm interested in it -- is the new windowing system. It appears to be a replacement for X, though I haven't seen a definitive statement on that. It could just be a Googlebox fork of Openbox. Openbox is all they'd need for this OS if you're never going to change apps or desktops, but they said a new windowing system. I'm assuming they know what they're saying. I think there's a lot of interest in a replacement for full-on X. They have a chance to do what Apple did with Aqua, while also ditching the legacy drivers. I mean, if they built it today with the express purpose of running on netbooks how many drivers would they have to write for it? Four (Intel, Nvidia, ATI, Via)? I'm not up on Android, but there's probably not that many more if they use it for that, too. That could be a significant contribution their wundercoders and PhDs could make to the GNU/Linux ecosystem. Or maybe, after all their bitching about the GTK vs QT thing for their chrome port, they saw that they're going to be in that space and they'd rather have their own windowing system with their own toolkit. Maybe make it cross-platform. Might be some big apple carts due for a spill here. Or maybe they were loose with their words and Openbox or Fluxbox will become Googlebox.

Sorry, but you're biased

Sorry, but you're biased against google. You say "no other netbook OS provider has latched onto the Chrome browser" and it's not even out for linux yet! Yes, duh, Microsoft hasn't used Chrome in XP instead of Internet Explorer, who would have guessed. Google are just taking their time - remember how for example you could only sign up at gmail if you were invited. That's their way to do things, and it's worked well so far. Oh, and it's not just a netbook OS, as you claim, they clearly said it's targeted at netbooks, laptops and desktops, it's just that the first devices to come with it will be netbooks.

It's influence could be quite minimal...

As I mentioned on my own blog, the effect of Chrome OS's release could be almost nothing at all. People are caught up in so much hype over this that they seem to feel compelled to create more hype. It's a freakin' hysteria out there!

There are lite OSes out there already isn't it?

When I bought a Lenovo S10 earlier this year for my fiancee, it came preinstalled with a lite, quick booting OS that features the browser, skype, and all the common utilities already. BUT, we still waited for XP to load most of the time.

As much as Chome OS CAN be the next big thing - I think it will take a few years (erm, maybe 10 years?!) for those stuck with Windows to switch.

Stuck with Windows? get free!

"Stuck with Windows" is an interesting concept. I was once "Stuck with Windows", but that changed and now I can choose whatever I want and I typically use Linux. Ubuntu is currently my choice, but I have also used other distributions. I am not stuck with anything. Anyone else can do the same, you just need to open your mind a little, learn some new ideas, and poof! Your are no longer "Stuck with Windows".
Just try Ubuntu on that Lenovo S10 and realize the incredible potential Linux can provide to you. Install it on all of your systems and you will realize how well the FOSS solution scales for nothing but a little new-found knowledge and time. It is much easier to do than most people realize. Knowledge is POWER.

I agree with you

Yeah,I agree with you. I want netbooks to be lighter (by weight) laptops rather than being a kind of hardware browser. However, the possibilities of Chrome OS getting evolved into a full fledged OS in the future cannot be ruled out, I guess.

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