The announcement of Google Chrome OS is certainly causing a stir around the internet. Questions questions questions – everyone has them, and very few have answers up to now.
Initially, Google Chrome OS is going to be aimed at netbooks – you know, those small, ultra portable, cheap machines which aren’t quite powerful enough to be a proper laptop for most people, but are great to carry with you for basic computing.
So what could Google Chrome OS mean for these devices? Well.. I think you’ll agree, they could open that whole market up even more, and in a big way.
Specification – Speed, Storage, and Graphics
Netbooks generally come with a low power processor (Intel Atom for example), around 1GB RAM and a low end graphics card to power the small LCD. This not only keeps the cost down, but also improves battery life and of course produces a lighter device, which, is one of the primary focuses of the machine.
The fact is, Google Chrome OS, in theory, should be pretty light on resources – no applications to install to take up hard drive space, no applications to take up large amounts of RAM when running, and no heavy processing duties to carry out number crunching.
Everything should/will (?) be carried out server side – the device is only there to display the information being fed to it. I guess one aspect which wouldn’t be web driven is playing a DVD for example, but DVD playing can be completed quite easily on standard netbook hardware.
Specification is no longer an important factor then, if the device runs Google Chrome OS and embraces web applications.
A lot of netbooks come with a version of Microsoft Windows, although some do ship with a Linux installation. Google Chrome OS will be OpenSource, so therefore should have no cost associated with installing this to the laptop in terms of licensing. In the case of the Windows’ netbooks, Google Chrome OS netbooks should be cheaper…… they can stay at a lower spec, with an OS which doesn’t “cost” a lot.
It will be interesting to see how applications are offered for use on Google Chrome OS.
Firstly, there’s the matter of cost/usage. Would you pay to use each application? Pay to remove ads? Pay a monthly/yearly fee and gain access to a web app? Purely advertisment supported? Lots of possibilities.
The other thing to consider is software upgrade costs – there, in theory, shouldn’t be any. If you are paying a monthly/yearly fee or using an ad-supported application, you would think that the web service offering that service would provide you with updates they make as they make them. It doesn’t make sense to maintain multiple online versions, for different people – it’s a logistical and support nightmare – everyone on the newest and latest version, with all bug fixes is the way to go.
Everyone has bought an application and then within a year it’s out of date and you’re being e-mailed about all the great new features the new version has – wouldn’t it be great if you just opened that application up again and you had those features for no additional cost? That’s what web can applications offer.
I’ll probably go into more detail about the apps in a future post, so keep checking back!
As mentioned above, portability is an important factor with netbooks – but we still have a sitation where if you have a file on your desktop machine, and you want to take it away with you to view/change whilst on the road, how do you do that? You may use various methods including USB memory sticks, e-mailing them, etc – but then you get into the problem of having to “resync” the files when you return. With Google Chrome OS, the emphasis is on online content – so, that document you have, if you create and edit it in Google Docs, it’ll be available from anywhere with an internet connection – your netbook, your PC, a laptop, a library PC, etc.
Then eventually, you’ll start using Google Chrome OS on your home PC (I guess that’s Google’s long term plan), and then data storage “in the cloud” really starts to make sense for you and your files – especially if you’re on the road a lot.
Collaboration with others
Collaboration is also a great feature of web-based applications – if you can access the files, this seems to suggest you can invite other people to view the files – you certainly can with Google Docs for example – if you share a file with another user, you can then view/edit it together – no complex file server configuration, just an internet connection and a browser for the parites involved.
Chrome OS Compatibility with Existing Hardware
Initially, Google are going to be working with OEMs to distribute Google Chrome OS on netbooks, but what about your existing netbook? Will you need to buy a new machine?
Well, probably not – As Google Chrome OS is going to be an OpenSource offering based upon Linux, there is a large community already which work hard on creating a robust kernel with large hardware support. That’s the great thing about OpenSource – with millions of people worldwide contributing towards a project, someone, somewhere, probably has that same hardware as you and is working on producing drivers/modules/code to support it.
So, in short, it’ll probably work with what you have at some point in the future, if not straight away.
It’s certainly a big announcement from Google, and there’s definetely justification for the large amount of press coverage you are seeing.
With netbooks certainly, the emphasis is on web content.. “a window to the web” if you like, and the current offerings seem to revolve around a web browser and some local applications – not really fully maximising what the device is/should be about. With the release of Google Chrome OS, this could all change, and we could find ourselves maximising the use of new and existing online services a whole lot more.
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