Google has just announced Chrome OS which is an extension of their popular Chrome browser. I’ll be the first to admit that the idea of an instant on OS that accesses the web and breaks new paradigms is intriguing. The problem is that already everyone is hailing this as the new Messiah OS. I’m sure Steve Jobs feels the RDF waning just a bit. I for one, don’t see this as a big deal yet, if not for awhile.
This is not the “first” time someone has had this great idea of a instantly bootable web OS. Isn’t this what netbooks were supposed to be? Weren’t they supposed to run Linux, boot up quickly, and use web apps to be useful? Yup. There are also pre-boot environments out there for windows pc’s. These were touted by everyone to be more useful and people were swooning over these “instant on” computers. I’d wager a bet that 98% of the people who own these computers never use this environment. Why you ask? It is probably because people don’t like having to boot back and forth between these environments. Also I know some of these environments silo the data on the hard drive or there are incompatibilities with file formats. People know windows and it works, not necessarily the best, but it works.
The Google announcement also makes it sound as if web applications do not work at all on current platforms. I thought the whole idea of developing Chrome was the reasoning that web apps would run wickedly fast in their browser. The perfect example of this web app only idea was the iPhone. Developers were rabid for native application support because of the limitations of web applications. While I like Google Apps and sometimes use them, they don’t hold a candle to the functionality of Microsoft Office. Going back to the netbook theory, the reason their success took off was because they ran Windows cheaply and could run “big boy” apps, except games.
One other question I’m curious about is hardware support. You know that driver manufacturers are going to drag their heels when it comes to supporting Chrome OS. I’m sure too that Google is not going to spend considerable R&D money to write drivers for everything. Hell you can’t even count on a big vendor such as HP to make drivers for Vista for a printer that was released in the last two years of XP.
Lastly I don’t really think there is room for another OS choice. Windows and OSX have a strangle hold on the majority of the market. Linux, whilst having made huge strides here recently, is still a niche OS to the tech savvy out there. And let’s be honest here, you’re not going to give your mom Linux. What I honestly would like to see, is Apple open up the iPhone version of OSX to put on netbooks. You have tons of app support already and a great interface that would work touch screen or keyboard controlled.
Or I could be wrong and this could be a game changer.