Google's Chrome OS is here... sort of, kind of

Google's Chrome OS is here... sort of, kind of

Summary: After long delays, Google's other operating system, Chrome OS, is finally, sort-of, here.

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Ready to get a copy of Google Chrome OS and test the heck out of it? I was. But, neither of us is going to be able to do it anytime soon. Feh!

Unlike some people I could mention-cough, Zack Whittaker, cough-I do think Google's Linux-based Chrome OS is far from being redundant and does matter. Potentially, it will matter a lot for business users. Unfortunately, I can't tell for certain yet.

I can't tell because instead of releasing a CD or DVD image of the operating system, or even source code for those of us who aren't afraid to compile operating systems. Google just announced today, December 7th, 2010, that in its Chrome OS "pilot program" that a beta netbook, the Cr-48, will be available to a select group of beta-testers.

Boo! I wanted a beta I could slap on my netbook, an older Dell Mini 9, or into a VirtualBox virtual machine (VM). I think Google is missing a trick here. I, and a few thousand other Linux users who change operating systems and Linux distribution at the drop of a Red Hat, would love to take Chrome OS out for a ride. Most of us would then be more than happy to report back what we found and how it could be improved.

Oh well, so much for that idea. Instead, I'll just have to petition Google for one of its un-branded Chrome netbooks along with everyone else.

Eventually, by the middle of 2011, anyone will be able to buy one of these generic Chrome netbooks. These netbooks are being built by Acer and Samsung.That's about all we need about the hardware side for now. Little details like "What's under the hood" and "How much?" are still unanswered questions.

As for the Cr-48, we know a little bit more about it. It will use a solid-state drive for storage and an Intel Atom processor. There's no hard drive, no CD or DVD drive, and, for that matter, Chrome doesn't even support USB yet.

What it will have is 802.11n and 3G wireless. It would be pretty useless without them. The whole point of Chrome, after all, is to be an online operating system. Oh, and it appears as if when Cr-48 retail brothers appear, Verizon will let you have free 3G-no Verizon LTE 4G alas-with them.

Based on today's press conference though, we do know a bit more about Google Chrome OS than we did before. As we expected, and Sundar Pichai, Google's vice president in charge of Chrome OS, said "We're delivering nothing but the Web."

That's not quite true though. Google Chrome OS uses HTML 5's offline storage capability to let you work with applications that are aware of this functionality even if you're disconnected. Unfortunately, that's also very beta at this point. For example, Google Docs uses HTML5's offline storage capability to continue working in Google Docs -- or will once Google updates it to add this capability. Today, I'm told, it won't work.

On the security side, all user data, and they mean all, is encrypted. That's a feature I can get behind.

If you like the idea of a light-weight Web-only operating system that can boot in seconds, but don't see how you could possibly get along without Microsoft Office, OpenOffice, or LibreOffice, don't sweat it. Google, in partnership with Citrix has you covered with a Chrome OS version of Citrix Receiver, the company's new lightweight remote app and virtual-desktop. If all goes well, you'll be able to run your Windows, Linux or Mac desktop applications on your Chrome OS netbook.

Another nice feature, and this one I didn't see coming, is that you'll be able to sync data from your Chrome Web-browsers and other Chrome OS devices. This indicates that you'll be able to run your own virtual Chrome desktop no matter what real desktop you happen to be at so long as it has Chrome available on it.

All of this may be a big deal, because, if you've been in this business for a while, you'll recognize this desktop model. Yes, that's right; it's the 21st century version of the remote client, network computer, thin-client desktop, yadda, yadda, yadda.

If you've been in technology as long as I have, you've heard this idea come and go at least half-a-dozen times. It's an IT-centric idea, beloved by many a CIO, in which clients are mere fingers to the central mainframe hand.

No matter how many companies have tried this approach, once PCs came along in the 80s, it never really caught back on. Despite all the attempts to revive it, PCs permanently moved user power from the server room to the desktop. The combination of the cloud, wide availability of high-speed wireless networking, and Chrome OS, however, may yet make the idea a winner.

Chrome OS, with HTML 5, gives the "desktop" operating system far more flexibility than earlier models. Simultaneously, cloud computing frees users from being tied to one particular server or data-center. Chrome OS may indeed not prove to be wildly successful for most users, but I can see it doing extremely well as a business desktop operating system.

Now, if only I could actually play with this darned operating system so I actually knew more about how it works!

Topics: Browser, Google, Hardware, Linux, Mobility, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

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26 comments
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  • Good blog!

    But don't they also need to eventually sync it with Android data? I guess Android does not do Google docs (yet?), but for the ultimate in mobility and flexibility, you need to be able to read and edit Google Docs on Android.
    Economister
    • RE: Google's Chrome OS is here... sort of, kind of

      @Economister

      It's called the thin client scam and it appears every 3-5 years like yoyos. It's like a mousetrap offering great cheese and you stay there until you or your proprietary equipment dies.

      Those who don't learn from history...
      tonymcs@...
  • Eventually everyone will be able to buy one?

    Just like those Linux Netbooks, Linux tablets, etc. Might want to check out that crystal ball and get a new one. Linux based operating systems like Chrome seem to disappoint routinely, not because they are poor, because they don't get released like you predict they will.
    Cynical99
    • RE: Google's Chrome OS is here... sort of, kind of

      @Cynical99
      Then Dell's Ubuntu-powered computers are just vaporware, right?
      ZackCDLVI
    • Remember, Android is also Linux, and, it vastly outsells Microsoft's varias

      mobile OSes.
      DonnieBoy
      • because they dont call it linux

        @DonnieBoy

        And unlike iphone which generally helps sales of Apple's desktops and laptops, nobody is going to switch to Linux because of using Android. That's why its called Android and not Android Linux.
        otaddy
      • Actually, you're wrong.

        @otaddy

        Google could call it Linux and people would still buy it. Why? They're buying it for brand recognition. People know Google, and a majority trust Google. "Google Android" could be called "Google Linux" and it would still sell.
        Michael Alan Goff
  • Hardware support is probably still limited

    ..... that's why it's still confined to one particular machine, I think.

    Interesting, but Chrome OS will have to be pretty compelling to make me prefer it over Ubuntu or openSUSE. Just a reduction in boot time won't do it for me.
    pjotr123
    • Well, me too, but, I am a developer. Joe Sixpack wants a computer that

      always boots and does not get a virus. Also, corporations want the masses to only have email, browser, search, simple documents and spreadsheets. Of course the ability to run applications a terminal.
      DonnieBoy
      • Lol, wut?

        @DonnieBoy <br><br>Corporations want users to have what they need to get the job done. Which means, many of them need more than just "email, browser, search, simple documents and spreadsheets".<br><br>You claim to be a developer, but you're no IT person.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • RE: Google's Chrome OS is here... sort of, kind of

        @DonnieBoy

        Writing HTML in your mother's basement is not development.

        You really have no clue what business want, even the smallest businesses need so much more than what you list, things like accounting, software development, database access, CRM tools etc. are just a small example of what many businesses need. Mail, search and browsing are time wasters at the majority of companies in the US!

        Pat
        omdguy
      • I have that now..its called a Windows7 laptop

        @DonnieBoy
        otaddy
      • Donnieboy,

        What you've just said... is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • RE: Google's Chrome OS is here... sort of, kind of

        @DonnieBoy

        Really Donnie? A developer? What do you develop on? Which OS and which tools? Have you created any program greater than 1000 lines? Do you have any qualifications and experience? Do you even have a job in IT? Remember hobbies don't count. You also seem to be enamoured of corporations for some reason.

        If you want, I'll provide my resume, but I was a developer before your DNA combined ;-)
        tonymcs@...
      • Ignore them all, DonnieBoy

        @DonnieBoy - ignore all the ad hominem attacks from people who believe all generalizations are true. Guys - he could be a far better web app developer than any of you, and say what he said with complete integrity. So his wording is casual and quick, so what? So he didn't rigorously qualify every thought to make clear he wasn't claiming that businesses also need accounting software that won't be based on HTML5 on the backend, yadda yadda. That makes it worth the kinds of comments you're throwing at him? I think your mothers would be ashamed of your online behavior ...
        daboochmeister
  • Sounds like Google wanted to have a more controlled test, with the hardware

    protection mechanisms to prevent booting un-authorized OSes. Everyday hardware does not have that capability. I do hope though, that they will eventually give us a version to run on standard hardware.
    DonnieBoy
    • I signed up for this

      Wish me luck.

      But yeah, this seems like the smart thing to do. They're beta-testing with specific hardware to see if it works. I'm guessing that this will be the basic setup that people will get with Chrome OS (atom, no CD, no USB, SSD) which will still be pretty cheap. Not the ARM you were hoping for, but maybe next time.
      Michael Alan Goff
  • Chromium OS

    There is Chromium OS which is supposed to be the source code behind Chrome OS. According to their FAQ:
    "Google Chrome OS is to Chromium OS what Google Chrome browser is to Chromium."
    So the source code is there but it may not be exactly what Google is going to put on their netbooks.
    CPPCrispy
    • RE: Google's Chrome OS is here... sort of, kind of

      @CPav which is a very strange thing. If they're using the Linux kernel, that's under GPL. Presumably they have lotsa other stuff in there also which *should* be under GPL. Yet Chromium is BSD...

      Seems a parallel to the Oracle lawsuit :(
      THUFIR.HAWAT
  • No 4G

    SJVN: I think they did this because the embedded 4G chipsets for LTE are still new and Google doesnt want to commit to using them...likewise I suspect they are more expensive than the legacy 3G chipsets.

    Of course this is just speculation on my part
    otaddy