Google Chrome OS and what it means for you

July 26, 2009 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Reprinted with permission from my original article featured on the TalkTalk official blog

There is a new operating system in town and it’s built by Google…

This month the search giant announced ‘Chrome OS’ – a strange name you’d think because it is named after the Google Chrome web browser. Surely what is usually just one component of an operating system should not be the inspiration for it? After all you don’t see Microsoft announcing ‘Internet Explorer OS’.

In actual fact however this is exactly what Chrome OS is, an operating system named after a web browser which is its inspiration and core. The argument is simple: research shows users now spend the majority of their time on a computer using the web browser and Google believes elements traditionally outside it can be seamlessly integrated in time. This strategy includes an impending redesign of Google Docs which it hopes will tempt users away from Microsoft Office.

Google Chrome

So is Google OS simply an operating system which loads a web browser? In short we don’t know. What we do know it is will be open source so anyone can develop for it and that it will be built upon Linux, the same core behind the increasingly popular Ubuntu platform. Google says the benefits of Chrome OS will be extremely fast boot times and much faster operation on old and low powered PCs compared to Windows.

Moving your data onto the internet means that users will be able to access it from any computer and the theory is it should be much more secure with the might of Google looking after it (conspiracy theories aside). Furthermore, if your computer breaks or is stolen then that data is safe. Critically it will also be free.

The drawbacks? We simply don’t know enough about Chrome OS yet. Google recently published a Chrome OS FAQ which confirmed major PC makers such as Acer, Asus, HP, Lenovo and Toshiba are interested but up to now we haven’t been presented with so much as a screenshot. Google Gears will allow common online tasks such as Gmail and Google Docs to be used offline but it is still awaiting widespread industry acceptance. It is also unclear how Google will tackle popular pastimes such as gaming with Chrome OS though the OnLive Cloud based streaming model may become paramount here.

The relevance of Chrome OS however is clear. Google sees the future of computing online. As the most powerful company on the Internet that could be expected but the cost savings, performance benefits and accessibility of information online does make for a compelling argument. That said, I would stress expectations are tempered, at least initially. The first version of Chrome OS will not arrive until the second half of 2010 and Google is a company which famously likes to beta test in public so expect things to be extremely rough and ready at first.

In the meantime, whether Google or Microsoft has the right approach, there is one indisputable fact which cannot be ignored: in future we’re going to be spending even more of our time online and what we do with it will become ever more advanced. So be sure to grab yourself a fast and reliable broadband connection and hold on tight!

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