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Why Is Google Turning Chrome Into An Operating System?

from the slow-down dept

There have been rumors for years that Google might someday release its own operating system, but the announcement that it's turning the Chrome browser into an operating system is an odd duck for a variety of reasons (amusingly, the "Google browser" was also rumored for years before Chrome showed up). Why is it odd?
  • Google already has an operating system in Android. While that was initially focused on mobile devices, it's already being expanded to netbooks, so turning that into a more complete operating system seems like the way to go.
  • Chrome itself still needs a ton of work. I've tried using it, and it's crazy buggy and so unstable -- I simply gave up and went back to Firefox. Jumping from just browser functionality to a full on OS before the browser code is really stable seems like a big leap.
  • The idea of turning a browser into an operating system has been around since the days of Netscape (folks there used to talk about how it was making Windows obsolete), but reality has proven otherwise. In fact, it was partly Netscape's desire to take down Windows by making Netscape more OS-like that caused Netscape to get so bloated as to be nearly useless.
  • Why now? Why an OS? Part of the appeal of the growth of the web itself (and Google with it) is the fact that it's made the whole operating system less and less integral to the computing experience. With the move towards more of a "cloud" based world (which Google has been a big part of driving) there just isn't as much value in the operating system as much as in the past. So why jump on that bandwagon now?
  • Given all of the above, it just seems like a confused strategy. There will likely be conflicts between Android and Chrome and consumer confusion as well, not to mention worries from folks who just want Chrome to be a simple, competent browser.
Perhaps Google can route around all of these issues, but at a first pass... it just seems like a confusing direction for Google to go in.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    Do you mean, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 6:15am

    Do you mean Linux Chrome? Because Chrome on Windows is pretty much the most stable and fast of the whole bunch...

    The linux version on the other hand is a very early development build and ... yeah, it's buggy.

     

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    jsl4980 (profile), Jul 8th, 2009 @ 6:18am

    They're trying to make the OS easier

    It looks like Google is trying to make getting online easier. They're attempting to create an OS that's easier, faster, and safer than Windows. An OS that doesn't have any insane 60-character license keys or Windows Genuine Advantage that assumes you stole your copy of Windows until you can prove you didn't. Why pay for Windows if all you do is surf the web?

    Why make their own? Probably because the Linux landscape is too fragmented and that intimidates way too many users. They seem to just want to make every aspect of getting online easier, which in the end will help their bottom line.

     

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    slacker525600 (profile), Jul 8th, 2009 @ 6:23am

    I dont think you are reading into it enough,

    they are calling it the chrome OS, but its based on both chrome and android. Its a linux based os that utilizes the browser for most of the typical usage of the computer.

    I dont know what version of chrome you were using that was buggy, I havent really had many complaints in the last 6 months. But they are optimizing chrome around the google tools. Namely all the ones that just yesterday took away the beta tag.

    My assumption, is that they will be utilizing their gears functionality, to provide access to the entire suite of google tools offline. While also providing local storage for all data, with online syncing to various google services for all the data stored on the device. So any pictures you have on your computer will be stored in picassa both locally and on google servers, all your email will be stored locally and on gmail servers, all your docs, spreadsheets, and pdfs will be stored locally and on google servers. Thus giving an integrated cloud computing and local service.

    The reason they are probably using the chrome moniker is that it will be sleek and minimilistic. Chrome has stayed away from being bloated by allowing its javascript engine to be highly optimized.

     

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    Kazi, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 6:30am

    Google is creating and entering a marketplace Facebook is looking to create and enter. There's a reason Facebook bought Parakey in 2007 and has done some major interface changes.

    Basically, your operating system is your profile which you can update offline and which updates the online version automatically - or something along those lines.

    RIP newspapers.

     

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    Don't they already have an OS?, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 6:32am

    Google Flavored Linux

    Goobuntu is a flavor of Ubuntu Linux that Google has apparently optimized and uses internally. Mark Shuttleworth, said in his blog that google has been sending Ubuntu Updates for a while now, http://www.markshuttleworth.com/archives/20 , To me this would appear the fastest way for google the enter the OS market since they seem to already have one... Granted Chrome on nix isn't quite there yet but its a bigger head start than a Browser.

     

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    JAy., Jul 8th, 2009 @ 6:35am

    Why now? Why an OS? Part of the appeal of the growth of the web itself (and Google with it) is the fact that it's made the whole operating system less and less integral to the computing experience. With the move towards more of a "cloud" based world (which Google has been a big part of driving) just doesn't value the operating system as much as in the past. So why jump on that bandwagon now?

    This is precisely why Google wants to make Chrome into an OS. If you are trying to exist in the cloud, Windows or OS X are significant over-kills for running the computer. Google's idea is to strip the OS to a basic system by taking out everything that isn't needed. Then use the browser and off-line tools to make the computer function.

    If you read the Google Blog entry for the announcement of Chrome OS, they say that part of the idea is to only run web-based apps (on-line vs off-line isn't discussed). If you could take out all the API's, dll's, etc., that make an OS bloated and only run an HMI, browser, and device drivers, the OS will require less resources and be faster, and possibly more stable. Hence Google's idea that Chrome OS should boot in "seconds", not the minutes that Windows typically take.

     

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    Griff (profile), Jul 8th, 2009 @ 6:37am

    Imagine

    That google apps does what you need and google gears works.
    That all your other stuff is similarly in the cloud, and it all lets you in via a sigle google syndicated login, or via iGoogle.

    You turn on your brand new Chrome netbook, and you are presented with a single login. This gets you into the netbook (after your first login) , and also starts up the browser in seconds and logs you into the cloud. Everything you need is just there.

    You never need to explicity store anything locally (though gears does that behind the scenes to enable offline working).
    In fact you CANNOT store anything. There is no interface for you to even do so. You can copy files from a CD or USb stick to your cloud storage account (perhaps via some invisible caching) but the concept of storage is now "storage in my account".

    Now imagine that this is you work machine and it has just been rolled out to you because your other broke / got stolen. Your IT department have not had to even touch it when it was delivered. None of the PC's around the building have needed to be touched, in fact.

    You travel and enter a cybercaf. There are chrome machines in the corner. Login to one and everything is there.

    The desktop has been replaced by iGoogle, in effect.

    The underlying OS deals with stuff like drivers, networking etc, but you rarely see that, and it rarely changes.

    There could be "skins". A Windows skin with "my Computer" and the recycle bin, if you like, to lessen the shock. or a "mac". And all the usual familiar folders on your virtual hard disk, if you like. Or not.

    Can you imagine it ?
    I thought I couldn't, but now I can.

    You have to stop thinking about this as a PC.
    It is a gateway to the cloud with invisible local caching.
    If they pull it off, it won't replace Windows.
    But for some it will remove the need for Windows.

    And noone will care what the processor is, or the memory or hard disk. Just how well it seems to perform.
    In fact the only reason to even use the same hardware is to leverage the Linux drivers for stuff.

    Noone will have to worry about developing for this OS, because noone will be actually installing apps on the local machine, will they ? You'll be developing for the cloud, and ensuring their app can use Gears properly.

     

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    Zaven (profile), Jul 8th, 2009 @ 6:39am

    Sorry Mike but I think this is one where you're wrong. I agree there's no reason to make their own OS but some of your points don't make sense.

    * On Android, "turning that into a more complete operating system seems like the way to go."

    I think they'd like to keep Android mostly running on embedded devices. It's much easier to keep it stable within a controlled system and optimize it for a specific set of hardware.

    * Chrome itself still needs a ton of work.

    They aren't turning Chrome into an OS. They're just calling the OS Chrome OS. There's a difference.

    If they are smart they will likely just make this OS into a Google centric distro of Linux. Include various notifiers and provide a slick UI which google tends to do. I think we need to wait for more details to come out before we start to make judgments on this.

     

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    Andrew Flick, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 6:46am

    It doesn't make sense

    I agree with you. This move makes very little sense in the grand scheme of things. My experience with Chrome mirrors yours and I have the same opinion—-it's not ready for prime-time. Besides, I thought Google wanted us to live in the Cloud.

    I guess the idea is to use the OS as a platform for running Chrome and accessing Web apps that are in the Cloud, but what about apps that have to run locally? What about games? Adobe Creative Suite?

    Maybe Google identified a niche for this kind of product on netbooks. Vista is notoriously bad on netbooks, and that would explain why there's no initial plans to run the OS on full-sized PCs. Only time will tell, and as a longtime user of Google products I will definitely be willing to check it out. There are just a lot of unanswered questions.

     

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    Designerfx (profile), Jul 8th, 2009 @ 6:51am

    Re: Imagine

    That whole concept of everything being saved is not new or innovative or suddenly more efficient with google. This is actually the third "google OS" if I remember right though? Didn't they do one for those walmart PC's or something and then android, and now this?

    meanwhile, cloud computing is a bunch of marketing garbage in general so to hear that it is essentially cloud/virtualization is not exactly refreshing or reasonable. I don't really see why we would gain some benefit from google making an OS that is remote. If they made a direct OS that was competition with other linux distros, aka android, and made it mature and developed enough to be used on notebooks/desktops, that would sell well. however, just a "cloud-style os?" fail.

     

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    Brooks (profile), Jul 8th, 2009 @ 6:52am

    Yep

    As others have noted, the reason the play doesn't make sense when framed Mike's way is that there are some basic misunderstandings in this post.

    - Chrome OS will be *less* complete than Android. The reason not to use Android is that it is already overkill for just getting a browser up and running (it's X11 based, for instance)

    - I've also had enough issues with Chrome to go back to Firefox, but we're talking about a "late 2010" release. I'm pretty sure the browser will be fine by then.

    - This has nothing to do with turning a browser into an operating system. Chrome will not be any different on Chrome OS than it is on Windows. This is about stripping the operating system down to the bare minimum needed to run a browser, which provides 95% of the functionality people need today

    - I'm really confused by the "why now" point. You won't even see Chrome OS; Chrome OS devices will boot directly to the browser. So yeah, OS functionality is less important today. Which is exactly "why now."

    - Again, no confusion. Chrome will be a simple, functional browser. Nobody's talking about adding MS Paint to Chrome. The idea is that web apps, especially with offline capability like Gears creates, will replace desktop apps. This OS play is *about* that, not in conflict with it.

    I hope Mike digs a little deeper into Google's announcements and updates this post, or writes a new one, based on what Chrome OS is actually going to be. It's not great for TechDirt to be so wildly wrong about something so important.

     

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    TPBer, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 6:55am

    Chrome vs Firefox

    It just takes a bit of getting used to but I find Chrome much faster, not necessarily more stable than FF, but definitely more efficient IMHO,I do not even consider IE as a browser.

    It sure can find torrents fast, who really ever needed TPB anyway :p

     

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    Steve R. (profile), Jul 8th, 2009 @ 7:02am

    Promote LINUX

    Rather than re-invent a "new" operating system, I would like to see more corporate support for enhancing LINUX overall. Specifically, it would be "good" to get behind one version of LINUX to unseat Microsoft, but then there would be a big argument over which version of LINUX. Anyway, go GOOGLE.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 7:09am

    It was obvious from day one when Google released Chrome that it's goal was to make a Chrome OS... that is if you looked under the hood. On the outside it looked like just another browser but there's things humming under all of that which betrays it's true nature.

     

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    JJ, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 7:12am

    Too literal

    I think you're taking the press release way to literally. It was released to the press, not to programmers. I highly doubt that they're building a new operating system from scratch using chrome as their code base. It's more about branding: the new operating system is going to be CALLED Chrome OS; it's gonna have the look/feel/paradigms of Chrome; under the hood I can't imagine it'll be anything more than another linux spinoff, maybe even using much of the Android code base. The Android name will be reserved for smart phones, while the Chrome name is to be associated with web-oriented desktop use. </speculation>

    As for chrome itself working as a file manager/shell: Chrome is built on WebKit, which was built from Konqueror, which used to be the default KDE file manager. So that part actually makes sense.

     

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    Troll, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 7:13am

    If it is a cloud OS, I'm not sure how much use it will really be. All of the data stored in the cloud will have to be accessible without internet for it to be use for a large deal of people who don't live in an area with open wireless, or it will have to be attached to some form of network that has the penetration that broadband access doesn't (maybe they could by some of that now opened up whitespace? or use the 3G network of some carry).

    And no matter what kind of computer you have, the type of processor will always matter. Look at netbooks for example. With being as lightweight as they are they should be focused on just this type of cloud computing, but I wouldn't buy one without an Atom processor (due to power efficiencies). I can't run CAD, PRO-E, PSPICE, Photoshop, Half Life 2, or a myriad of other wonderful processor intensive (and GPU intensive for graphics processing or for pure number crunching goodness in some CAD programs) programs in the cloud. Sure I can surf, stumble, write, and stream to my heart's content. But none of that is secure as a locked down local system (major security concerns). In short, screw the cloud.

     

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    Portnoy, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 7:19am

    More Google Spyware

    If the new OS is anything like Chrome, Google will use it, as it does Chrome, to collect more data for its do-no-evil databases. The price of free.

     

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    interval, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 7:36am

    Re:

    Isn't that what everyone does? Just create their own distro by branding some buttons and bitmaps and slapping it all around a Linux kernel? I'm hoping that we will see something "new"-ish from Google. I'm not holding my breath though.

     

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    interval, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 7:39am

    Re: It doesn't make sense

    If google did create a new OS that targeted specifically the netbook market, that would be something I think.

     

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    Joe, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 7:47am

    Chrome is Buggy?

    I think the other commenters have made the points I wanted to. I would agree with your premise of "they shouldn't be trying to make a browser into an OS" -- but as other comments have said, that might not be what they are planning.

    The real thing I wanted to comment on is your statement that Chrome was too buggy to work with. I've used Chrome since it came out, and absolutely love it. To me it's faster...but the main thing I like is being able to drag one tab to another group of tabs (it feels like dragging a tab from one instance of Chrome to the other, but really each tab is its own process, so I didn't quite know how to word that).

    I use Chrome exclusively at work, but I use Linux at home, so I don't use Chrome there. Until this recently 3.5 release of Firefox, I wasn't too crazy about it. Apparently I don't use Firefox for what it is intended though -- because I only have 2 plugins. So maybe my browsing habits are just better suited to Chrome.

     

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    Andrew D. Todd, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 7:53am

    Linux Device Drivers

    This is nothing new, really. Google has a consistent policy of promoting Open Source, as someone put it, "to piss in Bill Gates' Cheerios." Except now it's Steve Balmer's Cheerios. They have the Google Summer of Code, of course, and they paid for porting the Picassa picture browser as a means of building up WINE. Now they're going in from the other end. One of Linux's problems is lack of up-front hardware support. Linux has volunteers, of course, who can generally write suitable drivers for most hardware within a year or so, even in the face of the manufacturer's hostility, and put them in the kernel, but that is still playing catch-up. Google will be able to put pressure on the makers of hardware to become Linux-compatible.

    In many cases, this works out to being fully USB-compatible. USB consists of two major layers. At the bottom, there is the routing-and-transport layer. Almost all USB devices conform to this layer fully, so you can almost always plug a USB device into a hub instead of directly into the computer, and it will still work. The upper layer, however, is what are called "class specifications," generalized models of particular categories of devices such as keyboards, or mice, or memory keys, or electronic cameras. Here, compliance is much more iffy. A lot of manufacturers take the view that they don't have to conform strictly to the class specification standards, and get involved in improving them as necessary, because they can always supply a CD-ROM for the user to run on his Windows computer, which will install device drivers, and some applications, and maybe stick on some adware besides. Obviously, that doesn't cut it for Linux. I imagine that Google's new Linux-based distribution will put some pressure on manufacturers to conform to standards.

    http://www.usb.org/developers/devclass_docs#approved
    http://www.usb.org/developers/do cs/

     

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    aut, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 8:00am

    Congratulations, you said "seems" only 4 times in that article. It seems you are getting better at definitive writing.

     

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    minijedimaster (profile), Jul 8th, 2009 @ 8:05am

    Google Wave

    I'm surprised no one has mentioned Google Wave as part of the OS puzzle.

    "Simplest terms: Google Wave is Gmail on crack. Imagine Gmail, Google Talk, and Google Docs in one big inbox."

     

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    Jon B. (profile), Jul 8th, 2009 @ 8:05am

    Umm...

    1. How do you know that Chrome OS won't actually be just a souped up version of Android with a better brand name? It's possible that Chrome and Android already share some common code or a common code base.

    2. Chrome itself maybe fairly buggy, but the neat things it does at the core are pretty cool... spawning separate processes for tabs, javascript with tracing, etc. Carry that concept to the OS, and there you go.

    3. Yes, there have been failed attempts to turn the browser into an OS in the past, but not anymore. Today, people use their browser for most things, and laymen already have trouble knowing the difference between the OS and the big blue e for the Internet. Tying the browser to the OS has already been done successfully. And Mozilla has already proven that the browser can be extended beyond a browser. The distinction is irrelevant anymore.

    Points 4 and 5 seem off, too. So, the OS is designed to work better with the cloud. I just don't get where you're coming from on this one.

     

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    Robert Pryde (profile), Jul 8th, 2009 @ 8:07am

    Re: It doesn't make sense

    Umm, why would you try to use Adobe CS on a netbook.

     

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    Brooks (profile), Jul 8th, 2009 @ 8:12am

    Re: Umm...

    1. Because Google says so in their announcement. They're clear that Android is a full featured OS designed to run native apps, while Chrome OS is the bare minimum set of hardware drivers, kernel, and window manager needed to get a web browser up and running. They may share some bits, of course, but if anything Chrome OS is a stripped down version of Android. It'll be 1/10th the size. Or smaller.

    2. Yes, those are cool features, but there will be no OS to carry those into. You'll boot to a browser window; there will be no other window. No start bar. No dock. The OS, such as it is, will exist solely to get the browser running.

    3. Indeed. There won't be a mail client, because that will be web based. There won't be an office suite, because that too will be web based. If an app runs in a browser, it'll run in Chrome / Chrome OS. If not, like if you need Photoshop or something, Chrome OS won't be a suitable choice.

     

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    Marshall Stokes (profile), Jul 8th, 2009 @ 8:32am

    Isn't Chrome OS based on linux?

    It says in the Google Blog that "The software architecture is simple — Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel."

    So this is actually a rebranded and somewhat modified linux distro. Google hasn't invented their own OS, as so many of the commentors above seem to think. They have just taken an existing opensource linux distro and modified it to suit their needs.

    This is great for modern internet users, especially when it comes to netbooks and aging laptops. I am very excited to try this OS out on my old thinkpad, and I hope it will breath new life into my old hardware. The only thing I really need a laptop for these days is travel, and when I travel it's all webmail and web-based collaboration tools or social networking sites, so this is really going to be great for people with similar needs.

    Mike, I definitely agree that Chrome is not perfect. It has some major shortcomings, but I do think it's a great browser. However, I have to use FireFox still for some of the more advanced web browsing needs, and Flash seems to run better in FF on my work machine. There is also an odd problem with the browser history on Chrome that only seems to show itself after extended browsing on ajax heavy websites, but I suspect it's an issue with WebKit and not specifically Chrome.

    Anyway, this isn't turning a browser into an OS, it's modifying linux for the purpose of running only a browser application. I think it's going to be hugely successful, and I sincerely think Microsoft should be scared to death of this product! Windows 7 is great and all, but it's still a behemoth compared to what Chrome OS claims to be...

     

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    johnfordummies (profile), Jul 8th, 2009 @ 8:39am

    Chrome the OS will not be built on Chome the browser. It is going to built off of a Linux kernel, with a new windowing system (most likely based on Android's), unlike other distros that just rebrand and use Gnome, or KDE, or XFCE, or any number of other desktop environments.

    The time is right for the "web-based" operating system. Average people on the street are already geting used to "cloud computing" even if they don't know what it is thanks to the iPhone, the Crackberry, and now the Palm Pre. And additionally, using Google Gears, many web-only applications may be copied locally to run even when you are offline.

    The biggest drawback I always thought there was for web-based operating systems was graphics. I never thought I'd see the day that graphic intensive applications (CAD, 3D games, etc) would be able to exist inside the browser, but thanks to the new canvas tag, that is changing. The only browser currently not supporting it is Internet Exploder. HTML 5 is going to help people build real honest-to-goodness web applications without having to have Flash or Silverlight or JavaFX plugins, and thus making the applications more universal. True 'write-once, run-everywhere' development.

    Google has a few things going for it in this venture:
    1) Supports x86 and ARM architectures. (Windows and Mac? x86)
    2) Name recognition. (What average person knows what Ubuntu or even Linux is?)
    3) People are dissatisfied with Windows. (Personally, I'm loving Window 7, though)
    4) People hate Microsoft, but claim Apple is too expensive. Where's the other option? Oh yeah, it's called Linux (or Ubuntu, or Red Hat, or Suse, etc). But what's that? (See #2)

     

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    Azrael (profile), Jul 8th, 2009 @ 9:15am

    Re:

    And all this is based on the idea that we all have a fast reliable internet connection. Yea, right. How many people are really using cloud computing ? From my experience nobody.
    Real OS is here to stay.

     

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    NullOp, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 9:29am

    Chrome OS

    Chrome makes sense as an OS in light of the fact since day 1 the desktop computing model has been breaking-out-of-the-box. LANs, WANs, MANs, etc were a step out-of-the-box. The next logical step is the "Cloud" as it has come to be called. BTW, some of us are reminded of the dumb-terminal when you say "Cloud Computing". It makes sense to me for Google to create a World Area Network(c) OS and call it Chrome although it might better be called Rose as in "a rose by any other name..."

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 9:33am

    I think that what they want to do is a quick-startup OS like the 10.000 startup OS's around, that simply let's you do web (and in the google multiverse, that means spreadshets, word processing, mail, news, straming and web browsing). I really don't think they want to compete with Microsoft (or the minor OS's, like MacOSX and Linux). They simply want a very barebones thing that will work for the home user. People that use the computers for work (CAD, development, photo editing, intensive word processing, watching TV the real way, etc) will not be able to use Chrome OS. I agree with other on:
    a. Chrome OS is just the brand (and yes it's confusing if you name it the same as the browser, why not just call it Google OS or something?)
    b. Android will be bloated in comparison.
    c. It fits the overall "everything else is a commodity so you can go online and give us precious ad-moneys".
    d. Chrome (the browser) is excellent. Windows 7 is excellent too :).

    All things considered (including that this is pure speculation) I think it's very consistent with what they do and that it's a semi-cool idea. I don't think I'll use it much, being a developer. I'll surely use it for web/mail if I can multi-boot and it really starts up in a few seconds.

     

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    robin, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 9:37am

    makes a ton of sense

    i *think* the greater concept is part of the network effect, but basically, google needs web traffic to keep earning money, and doesn't hesitate to buy it.

    to wit: money to mozilla, using goog-411 to learn about voice recognition, note your recent post about you tube and it's contribution to google's data collection and user behavior, so on and so on.....google doesn't hesitate to create traffic anyway they can. and a branded os fits that pattern.

    all of it's software services create/re-inforce web traffic, all of which contribute to the enormous benefits of paid search. it makes sense to extend their efforts out to clients like android and on os.

     

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    mobiGeek, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 9:49am

    Re:

    Yes, seriously. I've been using Chrome as my primary browser on Windows for a couple of months now.

    I do miss adblock and a few other FF add-ons. Hopefully those will come in time.

     

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    mobiGeek, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 9:54am

    Re: Re:

    - Nobody needs more than 640kb of memory.

    - Not everyone has a mouse.

    - The internet is for academics.

    - Colour printers cost thousands of dollars.

    - ...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    icon
    Gatewood Green (profile), Jul 8th, 2009 @ 9:57am

    Re: Isn't Chrome OS based on linux?

    Marshall,

    Based on reading the blog announcement, I would pose the idea that they are not about to adapt any other company/organization's distribution. Given the stated goals/means of:

    • Just works
    • Simple
    • Secure (impervious to malware, viruses and trojans)
    • Run atop a Linux kernel
    • New stripped down windowing system

    I would venture to say that they are going to build their own ground up operating system. Most distributions are built for very specific business or hardware purposes or are generic in design for a multitude of uses. None of which that I have yet to see in over ten years of running openly available Linux distributions is "browser only", locked down, extremely tight setup.

    Given their goals, I would start from scratch. It is not all that hard to do if you understand the basic inner workings of an operating system. Most distributions are too generic for their needs and have way too many extra features not required. Basic security principles imply that extra features provide more vectors for attack.

    Addressing others' comments in this discussion...

    The discussion here focuses way too much on the Chrome browser and way too little on the concept being presented (by Google). This whole effort by them is moving back to the old style centralized computing model. Make the clients simple (and easy to maintain). Do the hard work on large central systems (mainframes in the old days, today, server farms).

    Google's idea would work whether you use Chrome, Firefox, Opera, or (insert favorite browser here that any company wants to write/port to run on x86 and ARM). There is a large contingent of users out there who need simple computing. Look up stuff on the web, check email and maybe basic 'office' applications; all of which is available in your favorite browser right now.

    Even as a developer (I build and maintain embedded operating systems among other things), I use simple appliances when I can. The browser on my phone is the most used application; even more than phone calls. Leaving out time at work, I use a browser for about 80 to 90 percent of what I do on a computer and use my phone more then I pull out the laptop. It boils down to simplicity and speed, to get the task done. I want it easy and I want it now. Take away the workplace and gamers and I bet the previous sentence describes the FAR majority of remaining computer users.

    Yes there is also a large group of users who want and/or need more, and there will still be many companies (Microsoft, RedHat, Novel, [insert favorite OS vendor here]) to fulfill those wants and needs. Even Google itself will continue to develop and promote their own somewhat generic (serve multiple purposes) operating system (Android) which is built atop a Linux kernel and many other open source projects.

    But for the rest of us, Google already supplies most of the applications we need, now they are going to try and supply the simplest (easy to use and maintain) platform to run those applications upon.

     

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  36.  
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    NotFromToronto (profile), Jul 8th, 2009 @ 9:59am

    I hope they remember not to embed the browser!

    As we all know, tightly coupling an OS with a browser is anti-competitive!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
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    chris (profile), Jul 8th, 2009 @ 10:02am

    Re: Re: Imagine

    This is actually the third "google OS" if I remember right though? Didn't they do one for those walmart PC's or something and then android, and now this?

    the walmart os isn't from google, it's gOS:
    http://www.thinkgos.com/gos/index.html

    cloud computing is a bunch of marketing garbage

    and so was java, and e-commerce, and application service providers, and B2B, and P2P, and open source, and social networks, and at one point in time: personal computers and the internet.

    the technology press treats every new thing as if it is earth shattering and life altering, and then a month later they repeat the process. they've been doing it since the invention of the PC.

    cloud computing won't change the world, but it will add to the existing landscape, just like all that other marketing garbage that has ended up changing everything.

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    interval, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 10:12am

    Re: Re: It doesn't make sense

    Umm, who said anything about Adobe CS?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    interval, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 10:16am

    Re: I hope they remember not to embed the browser!

    Indeed. So will Europe flip when they see this browser/OS monstrosity? The tards...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
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    Jon B. (profile), Jul 8th, 2009 @ 10:19am

    Re: Re: Umm...

    Do you have a citation for that? That wasn't mentioned in this article. I kinda hope Chrome OS isn't like that and just a browser window. I would hope for something more along the lines of Xandros's Presto OS. Maybe that's what you meant, but even that would be capable of more than just running Google Docs, such as OpenOffice, Gimp, or Picasa.

    Taking the Javascript engine out of the browser and putting it in the OS makes sense. That's what Google Gears does already, right? That's what I mean when I talk about adding those features to the OS.

    Hope I'm not just getting my hopes up, but that sounds like a better idea than stripping down Android.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
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    chris (profile), Jul 8th, 2009 @ 10:19am

    Re: It doesn't make sense

    I guess the idea is to use the OS as a platform for running Chrome and accessing Web apps that are in the Cloud, but what about apps that have to run locally? What about games? Adobe Creative Suite?

    those are what PC's are for.

    it's not like the police are gonna come take your windows PC once chrome OS is out. it will just be another tool to add to your arsenal.

    i have several computers, they're like my attack fleet:
    a desktop and two file servers: base command.
    a fullsize laptop: the mothership.
    a netbook: the landing craft.
    a smartphone: the scout craft.
    a USB stick with portable apps+google: the escape pod.

    chrome OS sounds ideal for a cafe/school/library/kiosk where people without computers will want to get online. i hope they support older hardware so people like me can recycle old machines into internet terminals.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 10:29am

    "Google already has an operating system in Android. While that was initially focused on mobile devices, it's already being expanded to netbooks, so turning that into a more complete operating system seems like the way to go."

    Android is designed primarily with phones in mind. Netbooks are similar, but PCs and Laptops are waaaay different. Talking about in purpose, UI, and architecture primarily.

    "Chrome itself still needs a ton of work. I've tried using it, and it's crazy buggy and so unstable -- I simply gave up and went back to Firefox. Jumping from just browser functionality to a full on OS before the browser code is really stable seems like a big leap."

    Um, what bugs in Chrome? Its faster and crashes less than Firefox. The only thing its missing for people is plugins, which I don't really use anyways in FireFox (other than Firebug). I use it daily and have for the last two months as my defacto browser. I only use IE when I need it for work and rarely touch Firefox anymore.

    "The idea of turning a browser into an operating system has been around since the days of Netscape (folks there used to talk about how it was making Windows obsolete), but reality has proven otherwise. In fact, it was partly Netscape's desire to take down Windows by making Netscape more OS-like that caused Netscape to get so bloated as to be nearly useless."

    True, but this is being aimed at netbooks. Google likes the idea of thin clients and mainframes and sees netbooks and web hosted applications as the new version. in a way they are correct, though I see it more than just for netbooks.

    "Why now? Why an OS? Part of the appeal of the growth of the web itself (and Google with it) is the fact that it's made the whole operating system less and less integral to the computing experience. With the move towards more of a "cloud" based world (which Google has been a big part of driving) there just isn't as much value in the operating system as much as in the past. So why jump on that bandwagon now?"

    You apparently are missing the point to their OS. Their OS is being designed specifically to enhance this cloud based computing experience. They're making the OS back to what it is supposed to be, as much out of sight as possible with the focus being on the applications themselves.

    "Given all of the above, it just seems like a confused strategy. There will likely be conflicts between Android and Chrome and consumer confusion as well, not to mention worries from folks who just want Chrome to be a simple, competent browser."

    Its not confusing at all. It makes perfect sense, especially since Chrome has been a simple competent browser for many months now.

    This story surprises me. Normally you are pretty on top of things here but it seems to me that you haven't used Chrome after it initially was open to the public and missed an obvious goal of Google's that has been stated numerous times in the past when they discuss their GoogleApps, and was indeed mentioned in the very announcement of the Chrome OS.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 10:32am

    Why Chrome Makes Sense

    In direct response to the author of the article;

    1) Android was built for mobile devices and smaller platforms. Arguably, yes, it can run on a netbook. Some people have even done so. That was never the *intention* of Android though. Google can expand by making a new OS, by leaps and bounds in areas where Android isn't prepared.

    2) Chrome Browser does need some work - what browser doesn't? It isn't my favorite browser, but I can tell you flat out that it isn't classified as unstable or crazy buggy. Where you got that from eludes me. Maybe your computer is unstable and crazy buggy? I can't speak for other platforms beyond Windows, but my experience with Chrome has been nothing short of solid. More so, if you want to talk about reliability and security, then check out the following link.

    Chrome the only web browser to survive the Pwn2Own contest: http://features.csmonitor.com/innovation/2009/03/24/browser-security-pwn2own-topples-all-but-chrome/

    3) In a way you're right, the idea of turning a browser into an OS isn't new. The difference is the era. With web 2.0 technology now running rampant, the concept and idea of a browser-OS combination makes more sense. Netscape's attempt was not only premature, but they didn't have the web apps to back it. Google has docs, e-mail, iGoogle, NativeClient, Google Talk, soon Google Voice, etc. They have all these things in place, being used, already developed. They're just waiting to be tied to a cloud computing experience. That is why it's different, heavily, than Netscape. Not to mention Google's record of success.

    4) Why now? Netbooks are selling like hotcakes. You virtually answer your own question. The appeal of the web itself is slowly making a traditional OS less attractive. So by making a browser-OS, which runs on an ultra portable, popular, and cheap device, makes perfect sense. Not to mention that the cost of a "Google Chrome Netbook" would be even cheaper than a Windows based netbook. If people want more access to the web environment, which they obviously do, then a Chrome OS would provide exactly that. The question is, why NOT make a netbook OS? Especially when it could very well be expanded in the future for other things.

    5) I don't see any confused strategy, and more so, I see no reason why Android and Chrome would conflict? I'm pretty sure Chrome-OS will have full Android support if needed. All of their other apps get along just fine, so why not an Android device with a Chrome-OS netbook? I don't think consumers will be confused, really. If they are, it will be more between Chrome the browser and Chrome the OS - but seeing as one runs a computer and the other runs ON a computer, it might not be so bad.

    There are a million other reasons why it makes sense, but I've ranted enough already.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 10:47am

    Re: Chrome is Buggy?

    I don't get the buggy comment either. I use Chrome daily with hardly a hitch. It is blazing fast without being a resource hog. I can only recall one or two crashes over the past several months. My main gripe is the lack of add-ons but that's to be expected for this early version. [I think it is ironic you can't install Google's toolbar on Chrome.]

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 10:50am

    Re: I hope they remember not to embed the browser!

    Not when you give away both for free.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    Mark Murphy, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 10:53am

    Re: Yep

    The reason not to use Android is that it is already overkill for just getting a browser up and running (it's X11 based, for instance)


    Um, no. Android does not use X11.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 10:54am

    Re: Re:

    Every single day. Most of my company's apps are now hosted and we access them through a browser. We have these overpowered workstation PC's that are i/o conduits.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    icon
    zaven (profile), Jul 8th, 2009 @ 10:58am

    Re: Re:

    Yes, that seems to be what everyone does. I'm simply saying they should go a bit more in depth. Make gmail notifications part of the OS for example.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
    identicon
    Mark Murphy, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 11:05am

    Re: Re: Umm...

    They're clear that Android is a full featured OS designed to run native apps


    They do not seem to mention that anywhere in the announcement.

    Chrome OS is the bare minimum set of hardware drivers, kernel, and window manager needed to get a web browser up and running


    Outside of the Dalvik VM, Android isn't much more than that.

    if anything Chrome OS is a stripped down version of Android. It'll be 1/10th the size. Or smaller.


    Bear in mind that Android is ~43MB. You're saying that Google Chrome OS -- which includes Google Chrome, a multiple-MB download -- will be around 4.3MB. That seems rather unlikely. I won't complain if it happens.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
    icon
    Chris Maresca (profile), Jul 8th, 2009 @ 11:27am

    What about the ecosystem?

    The reason for Windows dominance has nothing to do with Microsoft and everything to do with the Windows ecosystem. There are 300k+ companies developing on Windows, and that has presented a huge barrier to adoption for all flavors of Linux for years. And just because Google releases something that's going to tie you to their oh-so "production ready" cloud, it doesn't make an ecosystem.

    Never mind that Google has never been very 'open' about it's own code releases. Sure, Android is supposedly open-source, but how restrictive will the inevitable app store be? And what happens when Android is married to Google Voice, with phone number portability and VoIP? Hmmm, mobile devices + desktop OS with applications running in an opaque infrastructure we control? Sounds a lot like the new Microsoft, possibly even worse since you won't control your data or hardware.

    In the end, users don't give a crap about the OS, what they care about is the apps. Apple has shown that brilliantly with iTunes and MSFT's offerings are 'good enough' for most people, at least at the desktop level. Displacing either of those without a huge set of compelling apps that only run on _your_ OS is going to be virtually impossible.

    Years ago, I had hoped that Linux on the desktop could be something achievable, but it will probably take at least another 10 years for that to become a reality. And only if end-user applications are compelling and much better than what's available elsewhere....

    Chris.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
    identicon
    Krishna Sanatni, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 12:06pm

    Google answers to Bing

    Its groundbreaking idea from Google web OS and they are planning to wipe out Windows in a most strategic manner. Google clearly pointing to Microsoft when they say "The operating systems that browsers run were designed in an era where there was no web". But there are few questions which are unanswered like what will happen when we will go offline in Chrome OS? Can we use offline applications like iTunes or Photoshop? Can we run third party applications? How they are going to make profit from it ? I am also bit concerned whether Chrome OS will be embraced by enterprises as it is open source and web based as there is always a security issue....Just wait another thought can Chrome OS will become a global hit especially in small countries where internet is very fickle. But leaving these things aside its going to be win-win situation for the users and it will be interesting to witness the war between giants.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
    identicon
    Krishna Sanatni, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 12:11pm

    Google answers to Bing

    Its groundbreaking idea from Google web OS and they are planning to wipe out Windows in a most strategic manner. Google clearly pointing to Microsoft when they say "The operating systems that browsers run were designed in an era where there was no web". But there are few questions which are unanswered like what will happen when we will go offline in Chrome OS? Can we use offline applications like iTunes or Photoshop? Can we run third party applications? How they are going to make profit from it ? I am also bit concerned whether Chrome OS will be embraced by enterprises as it is open source and web based as there is always a security issue....Just wait another thought can Chrome OS will become a global hit especially in small countries where internet is very fickle. But leaving these things aside its going to be win-win situation for the users and it will be interesting to witness the war between giants.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53.  
    icon
    tristin (profile), Jul 8th, 2009 @ 1:10pm

    The masses turn on their leader

    I don't always read the comments, but this is the most extreme case I can remember where the readers disagree with Mike, almost vehemently.

    I take a bit of a middle-road attitude in this. I don't have a lot of hope for this to succeed much beyond the netbook sector, but it would be nice to get some competition injected into the stale two-horse race between Apple and Microsoft (sorry Linux, you just aren't enough). If Chrome OS gets any kind of traction we are all winners. If not, I don't really care. Windows could be better, but it's good enough.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  54.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 1:19pm

    Mike,

    Just because Chrome doesn't work for you when you have 200 tabs open (which surely is also what regular people do) doesn't mean that "it's crazy buggy".

    You're just not running it like normal people do.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55.  
    identicon
    Jan, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 1:24pm

    CrunchPad with Chrome OS

    I would love to have something like CrunchPad with Chrome OS running on it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  56.  
    identicon
    We can fix it, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 1:34pm

    Re: (Full Disclosure would be nice.)

    Yes, more disclosure, and transparency please.

    You're needs will definitely not be serviced by anything in the Netbook sector. What you need is to get a *SECOND* Cray XT5. With one of these babies, out of the box, you can have 3.2 Million tabs open, and is scalable to a theoretical limit of 5.5 Billion tabs.

    You already got your first Cray XT5 at a great discount to run your Twitscape app, and with the poor economy, Jose should be able to get you a discount on the second one.

    Give 'em a ring.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  57.  
    identicon
    gregory, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 1:44pm

    Good Idea, but Has to Address One Item well

    Personally, I like the idea of anyone competing with Microsoft in terms an operating system, especially someone as well funded as Google.

    Google is promising to make app development easy and the ability to have them run on any operating system, AKA web-based. But if they really want to put pressure on Windows and gain the developer crowd, they will have to give developers the ability to test on Internet Explorer from Chrome OS, otherwise developers will just need another machine and won't be able to ditch Windows

    More on this here: http://bit.ly/hEjrx

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  58.  
    identicon
    interval, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 1:49pm

    Re:

    I have to say that I didn't experience the problems reported, Chrome worked for me. I find some aspects of it off-putting, but they're really petty issues from long-time ff usage. For example; my gmail acct looks strange to me without my gmail & greasemonkey extensions. I also find windows apps that don't have a status bar, like the version of chrome I have, strange looking. But really, the damn thing worked for me. Faster? Yeah, noticeably, but not fast enough for me to ignore ff.

     

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  59.  
    identicon
    Nick, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 2:13pm

    Griff and the "Why Chrome Makes Sense" AC articulate the concept pretty well.

    Goggle are basically talking about developing Google thin clients such that your Google account *is* your computer. Gears might cache stuff on the local disk, but that isn't really where it is *stored* conceptually.

    It's about a purpose-built netbook rather than one which is just a stripped down PC.

    And for anything else? That's what your PC is for...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  60.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 5:59pm

    Re:

    And for anything else? That's what your PC is for...

    You're confused. It's actually "Mac and rack of 6 1U XGrid Servers in the basement are for". If I need a PC, I have one virtualized. Windows is way behind.

    Meanwhile... Check out this little gem from July 3: "Windows 7 is the same as Ubuntu... to the average 17 year-old.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  61.  
    identicon
    The Cenobyte, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 9:02pm

    A OS built around the idea of browsing...

    Didn't someone get introuble and almost broken up because they did that a few years back? I think so.... Imagine if they had control over most search and online video as well.


    Doesn't matter much anyway. MS, Apple and Linux are such huge players google is just going to make themselves another SUN, or IBM in the OS market. The money made from that market is shrinking (Why do you think MS is spending so much money winning the living room. I mean just look at the Natal demos)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  62.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 9:18pm

    Re: A OS built around the idea of browsing...

    (Why do you think MS is spending so much money winning the living room. I mean just look at the Natal demos)

    Project Natal?

    Didn't Colbert talk about that a few weeks ago? Why, yes. Yes he did, 2 minutes in.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  63.  
    icon
    Michael (profile), Jul 9th, 2009 @ 12:40am

    Re: Re: It doesn't make sense

    Hum...

    Base Command : Check
    Mothership : Check
    Landing Craft: Desired... after I get hired again...
    Scout Craft : The scout should be aboard the Landing Craft
    Escape Pod : Check, many lifeboats ready.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  64.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 9th, 2009 @ 4:06am

    Re: Re: It doesn't make sense

    You're totally right on this.

    Except that Microsoft seems to think the U.S. v Microsoft DOJ case doesn't exist and never happened. Even with Eliot Spitzer issue.

    Hell, most people in New York are happy to have him back prosecuting AIG.

    Who got off without paying a fine? Ahem, Microsoft.

    http://www.oneidadispatch.com/articles/2009/07/08/opinion/doc4a554a676546e260836746.tx t

    This is your one warning:
    Get your ass in line, and start innovating, Microsoft.


    As a side note, in HS, I started naming my computers after big cats. It was a weird naming device- as I was allergic to cats. But being in the first city in the country that had cable modems, My Proxy server was named Puma. My Printserver was named Tiger, my laptop was Leopard... and that's where I stopped.

    If it means anything, it was a Novel Personal Netware network. I did a presentation on this in HS and how INT-13 multitasking in Novell negatively affected my BBS I was running at the time. Later, I chose "Eterenity" as my BBS of choice, which was an offshoot of the "Renegade" system at the time. It was from the genius closed source Telegard. Even with the source, WWIV just didn't do it for me.

    I hated fossil drivers.

    rant off

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  65.  
    identicon
    Daniel, Jul 9th, 2009 @ 7:20am

    Interestingly, The Register has reported, “No one will be happier than Microsoft about Google's vanity venture to market computers with a Google-brand OS. It gives us the illusion of competition without seriously troubling either business…” (you can view a whole video about the OS at http://www.newsy.com/videos/google_gears_up_for_os)

    Granted, there's SUSE and Linux and such for that. But I think they have a point as well. While this OS is great news for netbook users, I think 2 things will nip this in the bud.

    1) A significant reason Microsoft is so popular is because it's come bundled with so many computers. It was most people's first OS and most don't care enough to find a better one. Unless Google can get their OS bundled with computers, they lose that battle already.
    2) I don't see the Chrome OS supporting advanced drivers, which leaves specialized users (hardcore gamers, sound engineers, etc.) out in the dark.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  66.  
    identicon
    Gary22, Aug 3rd, 2009 @ 3:45pm

    Re: I dont think you are reading into it enough,

    you've got it all wrong, Google has already stated that the only similarity between the Chrome OS and android is that they are both OS's. Once you get past that, they are two completely different things. Android is an all out OS, Chrome OS is basically web based.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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