The history and future of Chrome OS

The history and future of Chrome OS

Summary: Chrome OS is Google's first attempt at a desktop operating system. Due to be released in the second half of next year, the Chrome OS has many people baffled as to what it is exactly.

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Chrome OS is Google's first attempt at a desktop operating system. Due to be released in the second half of next year, the Chrome OS has many people baffled as to what it is exactly. What possessed Google to directly take on Microsoft in this way? Is Google getting too big for its boots? And how did this all kick off in the first place?

  • Full ZDNet.com Chrome OS coverage can be found here.

A little bit of background

For more years than I've been alive, there has been a bitter battle between Apple and Microsoft. Over time, Apple realised no matter what they did, it could never hold the monopoly over Windows so the moved onto better things. The iPod was a punch in the stomach to Microsoft, which never thought it would take off.

Since then, Bill Gates has banned Apple products in his house and Microsoft set up an "iPod amnesty", where employees with an iPod could bin it and replace it with a Zune, Microsoft's iPod equivalent. Due to the recession, this effort was cut short and Apple still dominates the Zune.

When Google came about nearly a decade ago, Microsoft's ears pricked up and the company assumed a defensive stance. Google had no interest in targeting Microsoft - it was Microsoft who saw Google as the threat and pummeled everything it had into Live Search, now Bing. Google saw this defensive move as quite interesting, partly hilarious. Up until this point, this was Microsoft threatened by Google, not the other way around.

When the "official news" broke of Google's operating system via their blog on Tuesday, the blogosphere picked up the story faster than a fat person picking up a cake in a bakery. It was quite an intense spectacle.

Google's unearthed plans

Google's plans to roll out a desktop operating system hasn't been a decision made lightly. After playing with Android, Google's operating system designed for mobile devices, isn't bad for a first attempt. But I reckon they have been planning this for a good number of years at least.

Via ReadWriteWeb, Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, wrote an article for the Economist:

"In 2007 we’ll witness the increasing dominance of open Internet standards. As web access via mobile phones grows, these standards will sweep aside the proprietary protocols promoted by individual companies striving for technical monopoly. Today’s desktop software will be overtaken by Internet-based services that enable users to choose the document formats, search tools and editing capability that best suit their needs."

While the potential to delve into conspiracy and "read between the lines" syndrome could be easy in this case, the above quote indicates they were plotting the Chrome OS.

Chrome, the name of Google's already quite popular browser, is put forward as the name of their operating system. This could well be a significant step towards the future of operating systems. TechCrunch believes a web browser is all you will need when using a computer in the near future. We see this with online office suites, online email, online social communication and online messaging. Why not the OS too?

In my opinion, Google started up as a lowly search engine which took the world by storm. Nobody expected it to do this well, probably not even the initial team. But with the revenues made, the breadth and depth of the service, the brand and everything else involved, they realised how powerful they were. Google, in this respect, will be the next Microsoft.

What next?

Considering Google has only just taken off the beta tags of it's most popular non-search services, GMail and Apps, some may believe that Chrome OS will be in a public forum soon. But as we have seen with Android, beta testing an operating system isn't as easy as a web service.

But over the course of Google's life, it has increasingly been moving in on Microsoft's turf. With many Google services on the web, this ties in nicely with this operating system. As a relatively bare-bones OS designed for netbooks, based on the Linux kernel, it will be similar to Android in that it will be open source and community driven. What's more, as a result, it will be free.

I doubt whether this will detract much of the market share away from Microsoft with the upcoming Windows 7 release, but on the non-software front, this will be an interesting couple of years in front of us.

Operating systems are the next battle ground and a Web based operating system is a possibility. Google has a chance. Still, either way, with the mysterious project, codename "Midori", the next generation of Microsoft's operating systems could well sweep the floor with other projects on the go at present.

For now, all we can really do is wait and see. It is us, the people, the next generation of techies which will decide.

Topics: Google, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software

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24 comments
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  • Google - Microsoft

    Microsoft (MS) like all monopolies has grown fat and sloppy - just look at Vista. What a piece of crap that was and is and MS made millions off this nightmare. They more than control all desk top software, they exploit this unchallenged monopoly. Without any real competition they have screwed the public and provided poor quality products for years. We need more players not less. MS has also killed off any real competition for PC office products with their bundled products. Real progress comes from competition from many players and hopefully Google can provide some help.
    mitte41
  • RE: The history and future of Chrome OS

    "TechCrunch believes a web browser is all you will need when using a computer in the near future."

    I doubt it. Internet applications have their positives, but they also have negatives. I personally think that a hybrid solution is the best in the long run.

    We have gobs of local computing power, why not leverage to its fullest advantage?

    "We see this with online office suites, online email, online social communication and online messaging."

    Kinda. None of them are really full featured. You still need to use offline applications to get the best stuff.

    "Why not the OS too?"

    That's close to impossible, AFAIK.

    -You still need to boot. Network boot is possible, but I dunno if you can go all the way across the Internet.

    -Network boot won't work if you're not on a network. IE, on an airplane.

    So booting from a physical disk is still desired.

    In addition, you still need to be able to run low level code to provide an interface between the devices and the OS. No CPU I know of understands JavaScript directly.

    From the sound of it, Chrome OS is not really an OS anyways: It's more like a shell replacement. It replaces X windows, not Linux itself. As I understand it, Chrome OS runs on top of the Linux kernel, so it's not really running on the Internet.

    It's just that the applications it supports run on the Internet.
    CobraA1
  • RE: The history and future of Chrome OS

    The allure of a netbook is portability. As there is little guarantee of internet access while traveling it is pure nonsense to believe that net based apps will be a reliable way to work with the netbook. The Chrome OS will need to support local applications. Since it is all but certain that C.OS will run on a Linux kernel, I really believe that C.OS is really a replacement for Gnome and KDE. Application suites such as OpenOffice should be hookable via C.OS.

    While Apple deny it, I believe they are in the final stages of preparing an Apple iBook that will run an Intel atom x86-64 under Mac OS X 10.7 ("Snow Leopard Cub"). With the packaging advances that Apple have made with the latest MacBook pro series, such is easily in reach. It will of course support standard apps such as Pages, Numbers and so on and even MS Office for Mac (though this may need a leaner version). Such an iBook would also impinge on the Kindle model - for 2.5x the price you would get 10x as much.
    AllenBraun
  • RE: The history and future of Chrome OS

    I was planning the switch to Linux, but now I will wait for Chrome. The Chrome browser rocks!
    jamesrmullen@...
  • What it is?

    It's HYPE, FREE PRESS and a BUNCH OF CRAP!

    This will FAIL hard.
    Viklund
    • re: What it is?

      Windows Se7en?

      <font color=#808080><em>"It's HYPE, FREE PRESS and a BUNCH OF CRAP!

      This will FAIL hard."</em></font>

      I think we have the same prediction.

      ^o^
      <br>
      n0neXn0ne
      • I don't think yours is so much a prediction...

        ...as it is a wish.
        mgp3
  • RE: The history and future of Chrome OS

    Considering the fast growing DoS attack bot nets that are comprised of low cost, free, pirated OS's, an OS that is secure and FREE may be a blessing to us all.

    Not only are these DoS attacks a danger to government systems, they bog down the whole Internet costing us all as the expense of fighting them is ultimately passed on to consumers in one way or another. I'm for what is better for everyone, rather than the bottom line of any one entity, or the preference of self concerned individuals. I have my preferences, but would be willing to compromise to get control of the WWW security issues that are growing in leaps and bounds.
    cgrosse23
    • addendum

      BTW... I've been in tech support industry for 25 years - b4 Internet was used by the general public. Individual users now cause problems because of their lack of knowledge or inability to pay for a secure computer system. Something has to be done about this, or we all loose.
      cgrosse23
  • Don't Knock it yet

    Google has a history of good decisions.
    They're after market share. Web browsing & communications is the main thing people do on their pc these days, the rest of the OS is for a minority of geeks. Microsoft will still dominate the office apps, I think this will be more of a blow for Apple.
    humpty88
  • Google may have an unexpected clear shot

    Has anyone considered the fact that opening a lot of
    browser windows simultaneously use up more system
    resources than running a bunch of open word documents.
    I'm not sure what kind of Super hi-performance
    "Netbooks" the tech guys keep talking about but I'm
    pretty sure most people won't be hanging up their
    trusty old word docs anything soon.

    That being said I do think that the new Google OS will
    extend the capabilities of the emerging Mobile
    Internet Devices (M.I.D's), I also think that the
    Google brand's strong association with the internet
    will allow them to dominate the online document
    collaboration market.
    erinskieasy
  • Vaporware to topple Microsoft? That's what the Zdnet headlines scream...

    Wait till it goes alpha and the headlines would be, "Chrome OS cleans the floor with Balmer's face." Then when it goes beta, "Chrome OS to get 90% adoption rate within the year, RIP, Microsoft." Then we would get treated to Arian's Windows too toxic poll when a bug is found on their Win 7 OS...
    transposeIT
    • Hahahaha!

      That just gave me a hilarious mental image, of Ballmer with a secret Firefox fetish. Let's face it, even if you were Ballmer and were dying to get the marketshare back (firmly) in the hands of IE, you'd still use Firefox, wouldn't you? It's a fantastic browser... it just worries me how bloated it is becoming, especially with 3.5 hogging me down.
      zwhittaker
      • more bloatware?

        Hmmm, I can see the headlines now:

        "Firefox software subsumed into Microsoft after it reaches the requisite
        level of bloat and spaghetti code."
        rahbm
  • RE: The history and future of Chrome OS

    Always, Google, never Linux. How so?
    People just do not realize- Linux has crept up to Microsoft and passed it as Microsoft is taking a monopoly nap.
    Just take a look at KDE (K Desktop Environment) for Kubuntu!!
    Check out Kubuntu.org!!
    Check out Ubuntu.org!!
    Check out Xubuntu.org!!
    They are great! I run a Kubuntu desktop computer and it is DEFINATELY THE MOST BEAUTIFUL O.S. OUT THERE!!
    Sincerely,
    One who knows...
    NinjaNumberNine
  • Do Some Research Next Time!

    Those of us born before 1990 may remember this is nearly EXACTLY what Netscape was trying to do when Microsoft put them out of business with IE.

    I wonder if Netscape had another source of revenue, like Google's advertising, would they have succeeded?

    "In a sense, this is the belated fulfillment of Netscape's "middleware" strategy to make the web browser the new operating system. As detailed in the Microsoft antitrust saga, Netscape's hope (and Microsoft's fear) was that the browser would supplant the operating system as the default platform for user applications. That's now starting to happen, although it didn't happen fast enough to save Netscape."
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20080530/0022021266.shtml

    The Browser Is The Operating System
    http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/1998/02/16/237705/index.htm
    ChodaBoy
    • I was born before 1990...

      :-)
      zwhittaker
  • Chrome, the name of Google?s already quite popular browser

    Hey, Zack...

    How popular is Chrome? Really!
    adornoe
  • Really? Zack? The techies decide?

    <i>It is us, the people, <b>the next generation of techies which will decide.</b></i>

    This site, as well as most other tech sites, are for the most part, unknown to the everyday PC user out there. And those users won't know or care about what you have to say.

    If it was up to the techies on most tech sites, Linux would be the number OS on 90 % or more of computers out there. If it was up to techies, Firefox would be the number one browser and not IE. If it was up to techies like you, MS would've gone out of business some 20 years ago. Stop using so much hype and come down to earth and start making reasonable arguments and statements.

    Sure, techies has influence, but the people at home make the decisions.
    adornoe
    • Good point, but...

      ... it is those very people at home who [i]don't[/i] make a decision, they
      just buy whatever is on the shelf at Best Buy or Walmart - those same
      stores that Microsoft blackmails into only stocking MS loaded computers.
      rahbm