Will the Chromium OS remain open source?

Will the Chromium OS remain open source?

Summary: I would dearly love to be wrong on this, but I don't see another way for Google to maximize the value of the buy.

TOPICS: Open Source

In the wake of Google's purchase of BumpTop, with its unique user interface, and BumpTop's decision to close down its work on Windows and the Mac OS, the question needs to be asked.

Will the Chromium OS remain open source?

As you can see from the video above, this has always been the promise. The Chromium source code is freely available. Just like Linux, on which it is based.

(Our Zach Whittaker saw BumpTop, which debuted at the 2007 TED Conference, last year, and was very impressed.)

The promise of open source has always been that it stirs open innovation, and no company believes in that more firmly than Google. But when Google needed something to get it over Apple, which had sued HTC over its use of multitouch, it bought the solution.

So now why should it share? Especially with Apple, which based its Mac OS on Linux.

Google launched the first version of Chromium late last year, but while Android has proven popular with manufacturers, no one has yet announced any plans to use Chromium. Some blogs, in fact, are already speculating that Android is the final destination for BumpTop. not Chromium at all.

Which leads to the larger question of differentiation. How does Google turn Chromium into something unique, something separate from Android, with its own value proposition? Especially if the Android team can just grab cool, new stuff like BumpTop and throw it onto a phone?

How does Google control BumpTop so it remains a unique experience? How does it keep out all the "baby Bumps" that may kluge parts of it together with other stuff and build incompatible, even proprietary, knock-offs?

The only answer to those questions is to close the code. I would dearly love to be wrong on this, but I don't see another way for Google to maximize the value of the buy.

Tell me I'm wrong. (And tell me why.)

Topic: Open Source

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  • Maybe follow more of the Android/OSX model

    Maybe certain parts of the Chrome OS stack will
    remain open source with proprietary enhancements,
    like BumpTop, not unlike the UIs for Android.
  • Is Chromium still moving forward

    or is it a dead end project now, thanks to the iPad?
    John Zern
    • RE: Will the Chromium OS remain open source?

      @John Zern
      If you watch the Atmosphere event, Schmidt talks about Chrome OS several times, as do the other speakers. Google is going to push Chrome OS as the front for Google Apps, in a "disposable" wrapper. Yes, folks, it's a thin client for the enterprise. Not too many of us are surprised by that.

      The Chrome OS security model puts it in a different market than Android. The OS is virtually bullet-proof, signed from the bottom up, and self-healing. BumpTop has no place in that model.
  • I agree with urbandk

    I agree with urbandk. Keeping parts of the OS open source and other parts closed source would make more sense then completely closing source. That is the only way if they still want to use open source software such as the Linux kernel.
  • RE: Will the Chromium OS remain open source?

    Wasn't OSX based on BSD, not Linux?
    • OSX and BSD

      Yes OSX is a variant of the FreeBSD operating
      system code named Darwin and NeXT OS. there is
      some good information available in this
      developers forum post.


      also wikipedia has some good information on this
      as well. Which mentions the original code was
      based on Steve Job's work on the NeXT OS when he
      got canned from Apple way back when (my father
      followed that very closely and had a lot of time
      and interest placed in the OS, and of course now
      exclusively uses OSX systems)


      This link goes to the main darwin website and
      lists BSD apps that work on Mac OSX


      one other place to look for info...

    • OS X based on BSD, not Linux.

      Yes, you are correct Christopher Borne.
      Dean Stevenson
  • Chrome OS . . . .

    Not terribly sure about Chrome OS. It's maybe too
    minimalistic, especially with the popularity of apps
    on new platforms.

    IMO some people are simply too obsessed with "the
    internet's gonna be everywhere" to be realistic about

    It's not just about the internet. It's about the UI.
    People don't want to be typing in URLs all of the
    time. People don't want browser controls all of the
    time. People don't want to wait for slow pages to
    load. People don't want stuff to stop when a
    connection is interrupted. People don't want to trust
    a third party with their data.

    People want a set of icons they can click to go
    places. People want stuff that just works, even in the
    face of connection issues. People want fast, snappy

    Performance in web apps is a mixed bag. Sure, the
    database can be theoretically faster, but the UI is
    generally a lot slower.

    It has to be streamed over a connection that's a lot
    slower than PCIE.

    It has to be interpreted by the browser - in several

    Any JavaScript has to be interpreted (slow overall) or
    compiled (longer page loading time during the

    If it's interrupted during download, it has to wait
    for the connection to reset.

    Until IE9 or the next version of Firefox come out,
    it's being drawn in software. In the meantime, modern
    OSes are hardware accelerating the UI of their apps.

    It's not really that good with multiple core CPUs.

    Frankly - web apps are just plain slow. They have
    their appeal, but it's just the case that native apps
    can be written far closer to the processor for much
    better performance.

    In addition,native apps can take advantage of all of
    the hardware on the platform (sensors, web cams,
    scanners, printers, multiple displays, card readers,
    headsets, etc). There's really no standards at all for
    web apps utilizing all of the hardware on various

    So, while a 100% web OS has some appeal to a lot of
    people, it's just not the case that web apps can do
    everything that native apps can do, and they really
    can't get the same performance as native apps. I think
    there's still gonna be a demand for local apps for
    many years to come.
    • . . . and yet another reminder . . .

      . . . and I walked out of range of my wi-fi when
      typing the last post. Had to go back to submit it.
      [sarcasm]Yet another reminder of how ubiquitous
      the Internet is getting.[/sarcasm]
      • better webapps

        We just need better webapps and more browsers
        which implement HTML5 and related technologies
        as they become standardized. In time, walking
        out of range of wifi should not be a huge

        Its entirely possible to write a webapp today
        which can save your post using LocalStorage and
        submit it when you are back in wifi range. But
        making that commonplace is going to require buy-
        in from web developers who seem inherently lazy
        and/or ignorant. Also, most web development
        platforms have no concept of this and no real
        server and client integration. You end up with
        one technology on the server and another on the
        client and they are totally disjointed. If you
        want to access a set of data on the client its
        always a totally separate API from the server.
        So people either don't do it or come up with
        some hacky solution that barely works.
        Javascript tends to be relegated to manipulating
        views rather than used throughout. There are
        some MVC-based Javascript APIs but once again
        they are completely disjointed from the server
        APIs. Very frustrating.
        • What's HTML5 have to do with Wi-Fi availability (or lack thereof)?

          [b] [/b]
    • You're not the target market

      Look at a $400 all-in-one, netbook, or laptop Chrome OS computer. Add superb networking. Add Salseforce.com, integrate with Google Apps (as a platform), and throw on HR and accounting apps.

      Suddenly, when it comes time for your company's software/hardware refresh, you're able to move all of the helpdesk, HR and sales over to thin clients (Chrome). Some of accounting can go, too. Sure, the artists and creative teams will need their high-end CAD, graphics, and whatever, but 2/3 of your company will be on managed IT, and the bean-counters will love it.
  • ChromeOS and Android are different/the model is the same

    Dear Dana,
    actually ChromeOS and Android are quite different (both technically and in terms of model) but both can be imagined as "disruptors" and not really moneymakers. Look at android: they basically changed the telco landscape in less than 2 years, leaving ample space for differentiation in terms of UI and ancillary applications, while making sure that the most interesting apps from google remain only on google-branded phones. Along with the iPhone, android forced MS to scrap their previous efforts at mobile OS, and forced RIM to update their web side (something that they strongly resisted in the past, due to the fear of losing strength on their fundamental apps). As for the model used, I doubt that they will close it, but will adopt the same "gated community" model used for Android: partners will get advance access to all patches and updates (with an advantage in time-to-market of up to 6 months, that for mobile phones is a lifetime) and specialized engineering service to facilitate integration. I believe that the model used for ChromeOS will be the same, along with the same reason: disrupt the market, move it to ARM (similar/slightly lower pricing, much better performance per watt, longer battery lifetime, improved multimedia) where microsoft can't follow.
    So, to answer your question, they will not close it, but "gate" it (open with a slight delay). It will maintain consistency because vendors will be part of the community of those interested in maintain consistency, or will use they interface instead, and so will differentiate strongly; it will remain open to guarantee vendors that it will be always within their control even if Google decides to change everything, and ChromeOS and Android will not mix, as the underlying designs are too different (there is a small possibility, technically speaking, to have an Android runtime under Chrome- but I seriously doubt that anyone will follow that road).
  • RE: Will the Chromium OS remain open source?

    OS X is *not* based on Linux - it is based on UNIX.
    • RE: Will the Chromium OS remain open source?

      If you want to be technical, it's based on NeXT with a Mach kernel. The BSD kernel just runs as a process. It _is_, however, certified Unix, though not really related -- more like adopted into the family.
  • RE: Will the Chromium OS remain open source?

    I agree that users will not want to create an inoperable environment while the network is down. I see
    no real benefit of moving to ChromeOS or Chrome browser
    while Chromium is a viable option.

    I use Ubuntu's version of Chromium with the start-page
    being that of ChromeOS's - for those familiar with this
    really useful page. I get all the benefits with zero
    drawbacks by using the open source "alternative."

    I think Google has been very successful in marketing
    the browser but they are realizing that unless all the
    hard drives in the world shrink to a Gig or two
    overnight we're not going to give up our hard drive for
    the OS.
  • OSX is based on Mach, not Linux. And Google should give back because it has

  • Mac OS NOT based on Linux

    As far as I can tell, nothing from Linux was
    brought to the table when developing Mac OS,
    mainly because of Linux' commercially-unfriendly
    GNU Public License (GPL). Instead, they chose
    to use BSD-Licensed code because the BSD license
    is very commercially friendly and allows closed-
    source solutions to be built using BSD-licensed
    source code.

    From wikipedia.org:


    "Mac OS X is based upon the Mach kernel.[11]
    Certain parts from FreeBSD's and NetBSD's
    implementation of Unix were incorporated in
    Nextstep, the core of Mac OS X."
    • Linux didn't exist then

      OS X didn't take from Linux because Linux hadn't been written yet when OS X was released in 1989 by NeXT, Jobs' computer company after he ... ahem ... left Apple. " Apple's Mac OS X is a direct descendant of Nextstep." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NeXTSTEP
  • RE: Will the Chromium OS remain open source?

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