Google Chrome OS: is the web an OS?

By GeniusDex on Wednesday 8 July 2009 11:23 - Comments (10)
Category: Software & Operating Systems, Views: 3.889

There is one news item which did grab my attention this morning: Google announced the Google Chrome OS. From what I read, they want to build an operating system which is basically only an entry point for the web. The browser will be the operating system, and the applications will be running online. This kind of operating system had to arrive once, and Google is a logical company to do it.

I think there are currently a few fundamental issues with such an operating system. The first issues is probably the most important issue: it will be too tied in with the web. What will happen if you for one reason or the other (think of airplane trips) are without any internet connection? Will you still be able to access your data the way you would as when you are online? Will you be able to do even anything at that point?

Another issue is with applications which basically cannot run on the web. Think of modern games which basically require a high-end PC to run properly. Granted, Google does not want to target this audience. Their main target is netbooks and simple PC's used for doing stuff on the web online. But doesn't this in the end halt the growth of such an OS? I am not too sure about their goals with this; will it be the same goals as the Chrome browser: make sure that the web as a platform evolves, because the client side tools improve?

Google gives a few reasons themselves for why this OS is needed and will fill a gap, but I think those reasons are not that far from current reality, especially when compared to a modern Linux distro and ongoing improvement there.
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.
The boot times of Linux-desktops are really improving lately. It takes me roughly 15 seconds before the login screen of my desktop shows, and another 10 or so afterwards before i can use my desktop. These times are still astronomical for some, who instead of "boot faster" want to "boot in 5 seconds". And they did it. Granted, it does not give a full fledged desktop environment at your fingertips, but enough to start a browser and browse the web.
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.
I am pretty confident that Google and other online service providers do care enough about my data not to accidentally get it thrown away. The other side of this is that you always want to be able to access your data in any format you want, instead of being tied to a specific vendor which just keeps your data. I have recently read a blogpost about that which I currently cannot find, but the main point was that having your data online is nice, but it ties you in. It is nothing better than having it in a poorly described document format on your computer. It is your data, and you should be able to do with it what you want. Doing everything online only makes this problem worse instead of solving it, because you cannot even access your data when you happen to be offline.
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.
This is not really an issue with modern Linux distro's. Granted, there is some hardware which does not work well, or even work at all, but in my eyes it's a lot better than what Windows gives to it's users. I use a simple guideline: if I plug it in and it works right away, it will work well. If it does not work right away, it will probably take an awful long time to get it to work. Add to that that nearly all hardware I have had my hands on just worked on Linux, and I do not think that hardware is the issue.

Software updates are also handled decently, simply because all your software comes from a central repository. If any software packages has an update, you can install it easily. There are still some issues with it for simple users though. They don't care that libhal-storage1 has an update or even that libhal-storage1 is needed for the system to work as they expect it to. They just want to know that there are system updates and install them; or even better, have the updates installed on the background.

Let's focus on the netbooks for the last part. The current issue with netbooks is, in my eyes, that they are not made for a full-blown desktop like Windows. The first eee PC had a custom Linux because that fits a netbook better. The KDE project is working a specific netbook shell for their plasma user interface, which focuses on the netbook use cases. It should be really easy for a distro to take that user interface, and build a proper netbook distro out of it.

All in all, I do not think that Chrome OS is really filling a huge void that cannot be filled otherwise, with probably less work. If they are doing it in the Chrome browser philosophy, I understand their move. If they want to make the new operating system everyone will use, I do not.

Volgende: Een tafel vol vlinders 03-'09 Een tafel vol vlinders

Comments


By HPMadness, Wednesday 8 July 2009 12:05

Well For me this is the time to reinstall Chrome Browser again! Because that way I can learn all ins and outs about the Chrome browser so that when the OS launches I already know how to use it to the fullest!!

By Melons, Wednesday 8 July 2009 12:11

The OS not working properly without internet is something you'll just have to get used to. Just like your computer won't work when the electricity is down. It feels scary, but it rarely happens, and this -should- improve further in the future.

About not being able to play games, they're working on this aswel.
One of the projects that are being worked on is called Gaikai ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-w56hQxmnY ).

Streaming video from a server that is running the game for you. This is supposed to fight piracy aswel, but I think we won't be seeing this for another couple years.

By Tweakers user neothor, Wednesday 8 July 2009 12:37

@Melons They focus on netbooks. Devices that are easy to take with you on your way to work, beach or holiday to name a few. Places where internet connection is scarse

By Tweakers user YopY, Wednesday 8 July 2009 13:00

What will happen if you for one reason or the other (think of airplane trips) are without any internet connection? Will you still be able to access your data the way you would as when you are online? Will you be able to do even anything at that point?
I'm pretty sure it will - think Google Gears and similar technologies, that allow you to run a web application locally. Gmail can be run without an internet connection. Sure, you wouldn't be able to get or send new data, but if you use your system regularly, it should have all the data available. Or at least most of it.
Another issue is with applications which basically cannot run on the web. Think of modern games which basically require a high-end PC to run properly.
There are several projects in the running, including one from Google itself (O3D), that attempt to run a full 3D engine (through a plugin) in the browser - see here for the project page. There's also Quake Live, which I have to check out btw.

And finally, there's millions of Flash games out there, which are equally fun to large 3D games, :D.

By Tweakers user Magnetra, Wednesday 8 July 2009 14:39

Oh noes :(

Why the heck are all company's integrating their products into an internet solution? It looks like all clientside software will disappear in the coming years, except the OS and the browser ofcourse.

I'd say: * epic_fail :')

[Comment edited on Wednesday 8 July 2009 14:39]


By HPMadness, Wednesday 8 July 2009 14:46

I dont believe it. Think outside your box. Netbooks in a few years will always have internet connection just like mobile telephones have now. THe prizes for wireless internet wehole Holland usb stick will drop lower and lower; just like mobile telephone have for internet; and maybe even tethering m8.

By Tweakers user ramonams, Wednesday 8 July 2009 16:38

What if one day google is no more?
A file on your computer you'll always be able to open, one way or another. But I'm sure that's it will be a major headache to get all your files from google to another service or store them locally...

And then ofc there are lots of privacy concerns, but I don't think I need to go down that road as this has been discussed many times before already.

By Tweakers user bobwarley, Wednesday 8 July 2009 17:10

@random: but I'd rather have access to my files EVERYWHERE and run the risk of Internet downtime like once a year, than having to copy files to USB sticks every fucking time u save a file, also making sure older files dont overwrite newer files, copy / sync shit manually. I think that being able to have your files accessible EVERYWHERE (and in the future, your own personalised desktop as well) and running this risk of downtime eveyr now and then is not that a big trade off / show stopper.

[Comment edited on Wednesday 8 July 2009 20:07]


By Tweakers user Sjoerdos, Wednesday 8 July 2009 23:42

"What will happen if you for one reason or the other (think of airplane trips) are without any internet connection? "

Pretty much nothing, look at the google labs features of gmail. A very nice feature for this kind of problem is offline, all your e-mail is available online and on your desktop (even when you're not connected to the net), new e-mails are updated automatically.

And with MS Windows you will have the same problem: If you're on a plane, with no internet access, you won't be able to use any update or program download.

I think Chrome OS should be included with a offline option, such as gmail offline.

By Tweakers user Wes, Thursday 9 July 2009 12:35

There are several projects in the running, including one from Google itself (O3D), that attempt to run a full 3D engine (through a plugin) in the browser - see here for the project page. There's also Quake Live, which I have to check out btw.
O3D will never reach the performance of a native C++ 3D app running on the client. Quake Live is very nice, but all they did is freshen up the graphics of a 10 year old game and create a plugin for a few browsers which allows a viewport to the Quake 3 engine. You are still running the same C++ application from your harddrive, it's just a different interface. As nice as this is, it does not make it a browser game such as flash games.

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