Chrome OS - The good, the bad and the ugly, and how it fits in with Windows, Mac and Linux

Chrome OS - The good, the bad and the ugly, and how it fits in with Windows, Mac and Linux

Summary: After yesterday's Google Chrome OS announcement I've had a little time to think about Google's vision for the OS and how it fits in with Windows, Mac and Linux.

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After yesterday's Google Chrome OS announcement I've had a little time to think about Google's vision for the OS and how it fits in with Windows, Mac and Linux.

The Good

There's a lot I like about Chrome OS because it sound different enough and radical enough to maybe get people thinking a little differently about what an OS is and how it relates, how to secure it, how it interacts with the hardware and how the user interacts with the it. Certainly the way that Google plans to make Chrome OS speedier and more secure shows that there's been a lot of out of the box thinking going on.

Note: What was interesting at yesterday's announcement was that during the Q&A session at the end how many of the tech press questions and comments seemed to want to drag the project back from being radical and make it into what we already have,

For example, take changes to the boot sequence ...

... verified boot ...

... and how easy it is to re-image the OS following malware or corruption ...

There's also tight integration with Google's massive array of online apps. Now, depending on how you view Google this can either be a good thing or a very bad thing. However, it's hard to deny that a machine where all your data and settings are synced to the cloud for both storage and security is a very interesting way to mitigate data and system loss disasters. The idea that your data isn't tied to a particular system is interesting, and the idea that all local data is encrypted is also very interesting.

I also like the fact that Google has made the project truly open source and is allowing outside developer involvement. Actually, I think it's been done at exactly the right time too - some of the framework has been put in place, but now the project can evolve. It'll be interesting to see where it goes.

The Bad, the ugly -->

The Bad

It's not all good stuff.

First, Chrome OS is basically one big Google vehicle, pushing Google's online services. If you like Gmail, Docs and so on, great, if you don't, well, Chrome really isn't for you. That's not to say that you can't use other online services for some things, but overall Chrome OS ties you into Google in many ways.

Another problem is that Google isn't looking at Chrome OS as software, but as netbooks loaded with Chrome OS as products. Sound familiar? Yeah, sounds an awful lot like Apple. It sounds like getting Chrome OS to run on standard desktops, laptops and notebooks isn't a priority for Google, so people wanting to take the OS for a spin will need to do some legwork. That said, the OS is open source, so people are free to tinker and make changes. But at the announcement there was a lot of talk of OEMs and reference hardware, so this isn't an OS that you download and install to replace your current OS.

Note: Google isn't touting Chrome OS devices as a desktop replacement, more a web-based "companion" device.

The Ugly

Chrome OS sounds like it revolves heavily on having near constant access to the web, which even today with WiFi and 3G networks, isn't always possible. Google seems to be building in features that allow you to use Chrome OS devices standalone, but this sounds like it caters for rare instances when the device is not hooked up to the web, rather than long periods.

Also, since Chrome OS is so reliant on Google web pass, if/when Google Docs of Gmail or Voice of whatever has a bad day, you're left twiddling your thumbs.

Then there's the fact that all this stuff is untested. Even with a year to go until we see Chrome OS on hardware, things could go horribly wrong. There's plenty of scope for bugs, security issues and data loss.

How Chrome OS fits in with Windows/Mac/Linux

It's interesting that Chrome OS doesn't represent a direct threat to Windows, Mac or Linux because the OS can't be downloaded and installed onto existing systems. However, given that Google is earmarking netbookesque form factor devices to get the Chrome OS treatment, this still means that Google could capture market share from both Windows and Mac, especially those looking for a simple, fuss-free web-based solution.

Bottom line is price. How well (or badly) Chrome OS does seem to me to be down to how much the devices will cost. If they're priced on par with Windows-based netbooks then it's hard to see how to make it relevant enough to gain critical mass. But if the price is right, then who knows what might happen.

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Topics: Google, Apple, Hardware, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

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  • Chrome OS - The good, the bad and the ugly, and how it fits in with Windows

    I gave it some thought too and realized that Chrome OS only has the bad and the ugly. There is nothing good about it. All data stored in the cloud, and on Google's servers no less? No thanks! Google's services are down more than a submarine. Not to mention whatever you put on their servers becomes their property. I can't see anyone giving up that kind of freedom. Enough about Chrome OS, its not going anywhere and its developers will abandon it after 6 months when they get bored and go back to playing with their office toys.
    Loverock Davidson
    • With respect...

      to the Balmer cultist, Google's services have a pretty nice uptime so acess because of server crash is not really what worries me but rather the fact that ChromeOs is not a OS but a glorified web browser running on top of a modified Kernel...


      A good point tough is that it will have less probable security flaws(the code is not as massive as MacOSX, Windows7 or most Linux Distros)... but still since it looks like we wont be installing annything on it I will never touch it(save for perhaps testing it on a VM).

      PS: Not withstanding the diferent cyber-cult... I feel like google will have soon it's own cyber-religion on ZDnet.
      Ceridan
      • The part I still don't like is my data must all pass over the internet.

        Over time, I'm not sure I can trust Google, or anyone else including Amazon, Microsoft and IBM, to make sure my data is secure and intact.
        And the idea of retrieving my files from the internet (I know files will be available offline too) is still too risky. Eventually the web will be very much suited to this kind of thing, but it's best left to smart phones at this point. I think there is a good decade before an true WebOS is a viable option as your only computing device.
        And the fact that Google says it's not trying to replace the desktop, but rather create a "companion device", what is the point? A full desktop can do any web related work, so why have 2 machines?
        xuniL_z
        • I share your concerns

          I would not put all my data in the cloud either.

          As for the 10 year time horizon I will only say that 10 years in the IT sector can be almost an eternity.

          Regarding Google's statement, I don't trust that at all. Google is no different from MS in that regard - "world domination" is the goal. If however, you wanted to eliminate somebody, would you broadcast that fact or would you try to keep it to yourself while you set up the ambush?
          Economister
      • Balmer cultist? I only see one group talking about conversions

        in the exact manner as deeply religous folk.<i> I converted my sister after much effort and she's so much happier now! Now I'm going to try and convert my grandma</i>

        People who promote OpenOffice should be just as concerned about Google docs as people that use MSOffice. Even having to work with a .doc is far better for open source than Google's plan of keeping applications and data in a central location.
        connor33
        • Actually...

          Since the "war" between Linux Fanboys, Apple Fanboys and MS Fanboys escalated to near holywar I started to use [CEO or Known Figure] cultist because really some people on these talkback almost act like religious fanatics when their favorite compagny/group/mentality/OS/browser is involved. Hence the use of "Cultist" by me.
          Ceridan
          • The holy war is pushed by the Linux cult

            Loverock can be obnoxious but he is more anti-Linux than anything. A lot of people that hate Linux appreciate Unix, Windows and other operating systems.

            Even Apple fanboys shouldn't be called cultists when compared to Linux fanatics. The whole FOSS agenda reeks of religious fanaticism. Even the most pro-Windows people I have met are fine with Linux on the server. It's the big push for desktop Linux that people find annoying.
            connor33
      • Ubuntu 9.10 Netbook Remix

        One does not have to be a Microsoft fan to realise that ChromeOS brings nothing to the Linux party except Google spyware. There exist many small versions of Linux for netbooks, if that is what you are looking for.

        And there exist many ways of putting things on the Cloud besides Google.

        Enough with this avalanche of blogs on ChromeOS. It is getting really tiresome.
        jorjitop
      • Unfortunately, for ONCE the M$FT Bigots Have a Point

        (and believe me, I NEVER expected to say that!)

        Yes, it sounds all wonderful that we'll all Live in the Cloud.... I'm sorry, I meant it [b][i]sucks[/b][/i] that we'll all be at the mercy of broadband Internet that, outside of major cities, is lucky to be available at anything faster than 1Mb/s on a reliable basis! My office Verizon DSL gives me 3 Mb/s theoretical, which translates to about one-half Mb/s actual in most cases - and while we have 5 Mb/s cable from Time-Warner [b][i]now[/b][/i], soon as a dozen people hop on needing the same constant connection at the same time, it'll slow to even SLOWER than my DSL actual service is. My mobile broadband - isn't, it's Edge Network where I live.

        Chrome OS is typical of "living in the bubble" arrogance, assuming everybody has constant access to reliable broadband when the truth is that roughly half the US population don't - and if Net Neutrality doesn't become law, that number will shrink as greedy Big Telcos suck us dry!
        drprodny
    • Yes! Yes! The office toys!

      As usual, the wise Loverock Davidson hits the nail right on the head: it's all to do with toys! That's it!

      And let's not forget: Chrome OS is not built on benevolent, wise, almighty Windows, but on nasty, smelly, buttock-pinching Linux.... The horror!
      Lovehog Dorkson
      • Any idea Linux?

        what according to you is Linux?
        bhasinusc
      • "built on...Linux"?

        I'm not sure what you meant by that. Did you mean a Linux box was used to build/compile or that it based on or uses Linux? If the latter I'm pretty sure that is wrong. ChromeOS is the OS.
        DevGuy_z
        • Linux Kernel

          Linux kernel and X. Learn about it. http://www.chromium.org/chromium-os/chromiumos-design-docs/software-architecture
          daengbo
      • I've never witnessed that before.

        Some so bothered by what another has to say that they create a new account which does nothing to tarnish the object of the nic, but makes you look like a total train wreck.
        xuniL_z
        • Oh, Fellow M$FT Bigot xuniL - Loverock is SUCH a Trollboi he DESERVES It!

          So just shut the fuck up - and let the rest of us enjoy his much-deserved Ballmer-sucking Right-Wingtard PWN!age!
          drprodny
    • If Google is your problem

      Then take advantage of its open source nature and replace Google services with ones you prefer. Or wait for someone else to do it for you (and I'm sure it will happen sooner or later).
      Michael Kelly
      • Agreed

        That will certainly happen. While I'm not a huge fan of cloud computing, it would be fairly trivial to build your own cloud, either locally or remotely.
        Also- given the number of businesses moving to Google from MS office, the licensing fees saved on would be substantial.

        I'm assuming that gears will be integrated for offline work (?).
        chrisaaaaaa6
        • Since gears is standard with the Chrome browser, it would surely be

          included in ChromeOS. But, the functionality of
          Gears will be eventually be part of HTML5, and the
          Gears name will disappear.

          But, these devices MUST have Gears like offline
          functionality so that you can at least do
          something when there is no internet. This will
          also make web applications a lot more snappy on
          slow or flaky connections.
          DonnieBoy
      • At This Point, Google IS Becoming More My Problem

        I was listening to Leo Laporte's THIS WEEK IN GOOGLE where they were talking w/one of the Google Engineers about how great Google is and all, and all I could keep thinking of was - China, where Google sold a bunch of dissidents down the river to the ChiCom government so they could keep Google China running. :( I also remembered Google [b][i]almost[/b][/i] agreeing to modify their records to give ex-Inquisitor General Alberto Gonzalez access to a year of all Google Searches - and only started backpedaling when the public outcry became too great for even them to ignore.

        Funny that these are [b][i]not[/b][/i] the people I want to be storing my documents and media....
        drprodny
    • "I gave it some thought"

      I think you have proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that you never give ANYTHING any thought. Somebody winds you up and you start talking/typing, the same garbage every time.

      So, don't brag
      Economister