Why the first Chrome netbooks may not be so revolutionary

Why the first Chrome netbooks may not be so revolutionary

Summary: Acer and Lenovo will be among the first to release netbooks running Google's Chrome OS. These netbooks, which will be dual-boot systems with Windows XP as well, could be available as early as next month in some markets, according to several reports.


Acer and Lenovo will be among the first to release netbooks running Google's Chrome OS. These netbooks, which will be dual-boot systems with Windows XP as well, could be available as early as next month in some markets, according to several reports. HTC, the smartphone manufacturer, could also release a branded Chrome OS netbook.

If the reports are accurate (there's a lot of confusion over Chrome versus Android), that would be a big change in the timetable for the Chrome OS. Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently said that computer companies will announce products before the end of this year. Prior to that, Google had said netbooks based on Chrome would not be available until the second half of 2010.

In early June, Acer was the first to announce that it would release a netbook running Google's Android. But a lot has changed in a month. Despite the hype, there were signs the industry was backing away from Android. Executives from chipmakers ARM and Nvidia suggested that Android still needed a lot more work. Then Google surprised the world by announcing a separate platform, Chrome OS, designed for "Web-centric" devices such as netbooks.

Like Android, the Chrome OS is based on Linux, but it is strictly for Web-based applications. Google is targeting devices that sound very similar to what Qualcomm refers to as smartbooks--small netbooks or Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) that boot instantly and are always online. Qualcomm worked with Google on the first Android smartphone, HTC's G1 for T-Mobile, and is also working with Google on Chrome OS, which will run on mobile devices with either ARM or Intel x86 chips. Other companies involved with Chrome include Acer, Asus, HP, Lenovo and Toshiba. Intel recently added itself to this list.

Many of those same computer makers had previously hinted that they were evaluating Android, but those plans are apparently on hold. The news site DigiTimes reported that Acer would go ahead with a dual-boot Aspire One running Android, but Asus and MSI had decided not to release Android netbooks.

That doesn't mean nothing is happening with Android. At an event to launch T-Mobile's new phone, the myTouch, last well, Google's Andy Rubin described a series of planned releases following last spring's Cupcake (also all named for desserts in alphabetical order) that would focus on social networking features. NTT DoCoMo has also released an Android phone in Japan, and Google expects 15 to 20 more Android devices to reach the market by the end of this year. Presumably most of these are smartphones, but Rubin said Android could find its way onto lots of devices such as "robots, GPS terminals and even refrigerators." Note the netbook was not on that list.

It sure sounds like Google will have two separate operating environments--one for embedded devices such as cell phones and the other for computers. Microsoft uses the same approach and that would make sense. But then Google confused things once again: Schmidt said Android and Chrome OS actually had a lot in common and could eventually merge. A series of supposed Chrome OS screenshots only added to the mystery.

There's still a lot we don't know about what a Google netbook will look like. But based on what little Google has revealed and the reports of dual-boot systems, one possibility is that initially the Chrome OS will turn out to be Google's version of the pre-boot micro-operating systems already found on several laptops and netbooks, which are also based on a lightweight Linux distribution. When you want to check e-mail, update your Facebook page, or find a meeting location, you can instantly boot the Chrome OS. When you need to create a Word document or edit photos, you'll probably wait for Windows.

Google can add a lot more value to that dual-boot scenario by using the speedy Chrome browser and the company's portfolio of Web-based applications and services (as well as Gears for off-line access). If they got it right, I suspect users would increasingly find that they could accomplish more and more tasks in the instant-boot Chrome OS without having to launch Windows, which would be a long-term threat to Microsoft. Eventually we would see netbooks and MIDs that used Chrome exclusively, especially with integrated mobile broadband. Perhaps those would arrive in the second half of 2010 with LTE or WiMax. In the short-term, that's hardly the revolution that the mainstream press has made Chrome out to be, but it could be a smart strategy for increasing Google's presence on the PC.

Topics: Mobility, Android, Browser, Google, Hardware, Mobile OS, Smartphones

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  • Android...not Chrome...

    From all indications Acer will be releasing and Android based netbook next month. I highly doubt there is any way Chrome's release could go from next year to next month.
  • Where is the source code?

    If the OEMs are releasing a Linux (GPL) based OS next month, where is the download for the (GPL) source code?
    • Not released yet...

      As it's not yet released, you can't download. But you will, according to the [url=http://netbnr.net/loc.html?http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/introducing-google-chrome-os.html]Google Chrome OS FAQ[/url]

      [i]I'm a developer ? how can I work with you?
      Thanks for your interest. Later this year, the Google Chrome OS code will be open sourced. We're looking forward to working with the open source community and making our own small contribution to the great work being done out there. Please stay tuned.[i]
      • Sorry about the link!

        I'm using a free, advertiser-subsidized WiFi connection right now downtown on my lunchhour...

        The point was that Google is promising to release their open source code - when it's ready...
    • Technically...

      they only have to release it to their customers (i.e. the people they are distributing binaries to). So since there aren't any customers yet, there is no need to release anything to anyone. It will be released in due time.
      Michael Kelly
  • Android on smartbook, etc. devices

    I think Android will still have a great future on smartbook/netbook/MID/eReader/etc. devices, even after ChromeOS begins to ship (especially with Android 2.0 supporting a broader range of display resolutions).


    Mobile devices running Android are perfectly suited for mobile operators:

    1. Android enables the support of cell phone calls, SMS/MMS, LBS, etc., from which mobile operators can generate revenue over and above basic data contracts.

    2. Operators will already have Android smartphone experience & apps that can be utilized on other Android-based devices.

    Hopefully, Android & ChromeOS will eventually merge, with a build or configuration option to toggle between an Android "desktop" and a ChromeOS "desktop". Until that time, I guess it will be up to the device vendors to decide which one makes more sense, for the type of device they are trying to build.
    • I happen to think that the distinction between Android and Chrome

      will be similar to the distinction between Ubuntu and Ubuntu Netbook remix. Same source tree, same depositories, just totally different packaging. If that's the case, then the radio image used in Android would also be available to Chrome.

      Of course this is my totally uninformed opinion based on complete guesswork.
      Michael Kelly
    • Why merge...why the compeition talk....

      I'm not understanding the great need to see Chrome and Android merge nor do I see why people pit them against each other. Its really seems fanboyish. If Google wants to build an OS more geared towards a notebook form factor then why not? Who cares if it then means Android won't be on netbooks...it will still be on phones.

      I just don't see the need to merge either. Let them both do what they were made to do and at best have great interaction. I can think of all sorts of ways that I'd like my cell phone to interact directly with my PC. Some of them are already there and many are capable with Android as it is. It would be nice to see it all taken a step further though.
  • What we do know about Chrome

    We know that Google's business model is based on using knowledge gleaned by people using their products to sell more advertising. We know that anyone using Chrome or Android will be providing Google with complete information about everything they do on the internet. Google will provide the "cloud". Thus Chrome/Android should only be used by people who have NO concern about their privacy. Terrifying thought!
    • re: What we do know about Chrome ...

      <font color=#808080><em>"Thus Chrome/Android should only be used by people who have NO concern about their privacy. Terrifying thought!"</em></font>

      Thus Windows should only be used by people who have NO concern about their privacy. Terrifying thought!

      Sad but true.

    • Privacy?

      Privacy, what privacy? That went out the window
      with the advent of the internet. Your ISP has access
      to all the same data as Google, even the RIAA when
      they feel like it. Then there is the Patriot Act where
      Uncle Sam wants to take a look too.

      The only difference is WHAT Google is using the
      information for, not to cut off your connection, not to
      sue you, not to brand you as a terrorist, but to make
      your browsing experience better so you will stay
      longer on the internet. But then we can go all paranoid can't we and get out our tinfoil hats.
  • Why doesn't anyone blog about the FUD?

    Chrome OS is simply a way to try to make people not purchase Win7 right after it's released and try to slow down Msft's momentum with the new OS.

    It's actually a classic move, right out of Microsoft's playbook in fact...
  • Google Smoogle

    If you think MS doesn't have a client based cloud centric OS in the works, you would be mistaken. And the idea that yet another Linux based Netbook OS (yawn) "poses a threat to MS", is just silly. Steve Ballmer laughed at the idea, and rightly so.
    • re: Google Smoogle

      <font color=#808080><em>"Steve Ballmer laughed at the idea, and rightly so."</em></font>

      <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5oGaZIKYvo&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fvideo.google.com%2Fvideosearch%3Fq%3Dballmer%2520laughed%2520at%2520iphone%26oe%3Dutf-8%26rls%3Dcom.ubuntu%3Aen-US%3Aunofficial%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26&feature=player_embedded" target="_blank">Microsoft CEO Ballmer laughs at Apple iPhone</a>
      Steve Ballmer laughed at the iPhone and rightly so.

  • Why would you want Google Chrome?

    Why would you want an OS that opens in a browser? Granted, I show my ignorance here, but why would I want an OS that requires me to have an internet connection to use the machine?

    Why rent when you can own?
    • Here are a few reasons

      Here are a few possible reasons:

      Time Savings:
      - bootup, shutdown, runtime
      - software maintenance (configuration, debugging, updates, upgrades, virus & spyware scanning, OS re-installs, etc.)
      - data backup & restore
      - battery recharging

      Cost Savings:
      - reduced hardware requirements (CPU, memory, HDD, battery); presumably fanless
      - less expensive total system cost, due to free OS (assuming vendor savings are passed on) & reduced hardware requirements
      - reduced (eliminated?) need for virus, spyware, etc. programs
      - lower electricity usage
  • Operating environment

    I think operating environment is the best way to describe
    Android and Chrome. In traditional terminology Linux is the
    OS that is the glue that attaches the applications to the
    hardware. From that point on Android and Chrome seem
  • RE: Why the first Chrome netbooks may not be so revolutionary

    I wonder how well this Chrome OS will go over in Europe? An OS that only has a browser where bundling the browser is a violation of anti-trust rulings...
    • Revolutionary - Evolutionary

      This is not the same thing as Microsoft. Google current has zero market
      share and when they do have market share, it will be in a smaller
      segment (netbooks) than MS has with desktops. The EU ruling is that MS
      has a large market share, and forcing IE over other browsers is abuse of
      monopoly power, so MS must not force IE, it just needs to de-link the
      browser from the OS.

      I don't think that Chrome OS is revolutionary, more evolutionary. It is still
      basically Linux under the hood, but it will probably have a Google look
      and feel. MS may actually enjoy this with Azure, if they allow it.
  • RE: Why the first Chrome netbooks may not be so revolutionary

    I don't understand why short bootup time is constantly being lauded as a huge advantage of Chrome OS. I hardly ever boot my laptop; usually I just wake it from sleep which takes about 1-2 seconds.