Everybody seems to be talking about Google's blog announcement of Chrome OS
[GCOS]. Okay, their announcement said that next year they should have an operating system designed for netbooks and web browsing.
Here are the key points in that announcement:
- GCOS is open source and will run on both x86 and ARM platforms.
- Netbooks are already planned to be shipped with GCOS next year.
- GCOS consists of the Chrome browser and a new windowing system built on top of the Linux kernel.
- All application development will be done for the web using your favorite web technologies.
- Any apps developed for GCOS will automatically work on other operating systems because they target the browser rather than the underlying OS.
- GCOS is a totally separate project to Android, but there is some overlap.
Google says that the GCOS design is based on these key items: speed, simplicity, and security. They are designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, so you can start up and onto the web in a few seconds.
Google's blog states the obvious, that "most people want their data to be accessible to them wherever they are, they don’t want to worry about losing their computer or forgetting to back up files, they don’t want to spend hours configuring their computers to work with every new piece of hardware, or to be concerned about constant software updates." Google’s lofty promises also include the claim that they are going back to basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the GCOS so that users don't have to deal with viruses, malware, or security updates. That raises the question: when did Google get into designing anti-virus and anti-malware software? "GCOS is supposed to power computers ranging from small netbooks to full-size desktop systems."
Applications, which can be written in standard Web programming languages, will run inside a new windowing system. They will additionally run inside the Chrome browser
on Windows, Mac or Linux machines, meaning that a single application could run on almost any computer. There is not a single mention of working offline. Another of those obvious issues left out of the announcement. If I'm using a netbook which connects with 3G HDSPA protocol to the Internet and Google's cloud, how well is that transport protocol going to work when I’m away from my home or office? We can drive less than two hours from our office and come up against mobile phone data speeds that are slower than 1990's wireline modem speeds. Do you want to connect via some restaurant’s or hotel’s unsecured WiFi router for your banking or online purchases? We used the Chrome browser and found it to have really buggy code. Similar problems are still showing up in Gmail – it acts weird for no obvious reason when composing online. Part of the problems we have with all the so-called cloud based applications is not being able to get consistent test results. Usage is always dependent on the ISP connections, the Internet load, or overload as recently experienced, and the number of routers your packets pass through. Google's data center management itself has had its share of problems with software upgrades and power outages. Google admits they have a lot of work to do, and are definitely going to need a lot of help from the open source community to accomplish this vision. Oh, did we mention that GCOS is planned to ship in second half of 2010? Is Google building an OS for geeks who don't really care about turnkey support? If building on an open source Linux distro “wrapper” was the answer for desktop users, then Jaunty Jackalope, Ubuntu and its distro cousins would have many more netbook installs than Microsoft. Yet, Microsoft's Windows OS still owns over 90 percent of the installed personal computers. Google needs to step up, because there is so much more under the bonnet than "programming an operating system". Microsoft has couple of dozen "Advisory Boards", with the most prominent one being DirectX Advisory Board [DXAB], where you'll see companies from the world of gaming, professional software, enterprise software and many more. All of these individuals meet couple of times a year and set a roadmap for the future. Microsoft of today is much more flexible than before, since the company realized that it has to evolve. Given their stance on Windows 7, you can conclude for yourself how hard or "easy" is to develop an operating system. I am reminded of Wendy's 1984 TV ad "Where's the Beef?" because it has taken Google many years to get their so-called office applications out of beta. How long will we have to wait for Google's Chrome OS to graduate from beta?
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