Google announced a few weeks ago their shiny new Chrome OS. It’s the old-new approach to computing: having a dumb terminal connected to external computing services. The problem is, that it is only half baked, and a few years ahead of its time.
Chrome OS in a Nutshell
To me, Chrome OS is simply an operating system that has a browser as its user interface. While people in the blogosphere mainly focus on the boot speed of it (7 seconds), I’d say the main difference between it and “traditional” operating systems is the fact that there are no application downloads or installation. None. Everything runs from the browser, and lives on the cloud.
You can’t download stuff; You can’t install stuff; You can’t even save your own files – they get stored on Google’s servers. I am not complaining here – just stating the facts.
If you’re looking for a bit more information, then here’s a short video explaining the concept of Chrome OS that Google released:
But Where are the Applications?
As I explained just last week, in mobile handsets, applications can be either integrated, downloadable or cloud based. Today’s winner for the mobile is of course the downlodable paradigm, courtesy of the AppStore. And that’s because it’s easy for consumers to find the services they want, and easy for developers to monetize through the infrastructure provided by the AppStore.
In a way, the mobile applications market has shifted from integrated, to cloud based (does anyone remember the failed WAP technology?) and now to downloadable.
On the PC front there’s a different trend. We’ve used downloadable apps since forever, and we’re now moving towards cloud based. We’re somewhere in the middle of this transition. Google sees this as an opportunity, as they are a cloud based company, and they are readying themselves and trying to speed up the migration by offering an operating system designed for the clouds.
Where Chrome OS Falls Short
While this is a very compelling trend, there is this minor issue of being unable to run applications on top of the OS (and only in the browser). It means that there is no real way to add functionality outside the browser. An example of where this falls short is when visual communications are required – you just can’t get a reasonable video conferencing experience from a browser – there must always be some kind of a plugin added on top (or below?) the browser to get that service running properly. I am sure this is not the only service that gets hurt from this “browser only” limitation.
It is also a huge threat to UC vendors. Assuming Google gets their way and Chrome OS becomes commonplace, and later penetrates the enterprise market, what will happens to the UC vendors and their corporate applications? Do they need to rewrite them for the browser, now that Google forces us all to use only web based applications?
As Chrome OS is open source, I’d say that the end solution would be to integrate the infrastructure required for VoIP deep into the OS itself, eliminating the need for downloading the technologies that browsers lack. Problem is I don’t see it happening any time soon – these technologies still get updated too often to be embedded into the operating system.
More Chrome OS Analysis
If you are in search of some good analyses on the new Chrome OS, here are some great places to look:
- Kevin C. Tofel from jkOnTheRun provides a shortlist of his takeaways of Chrome OS. There’s also the Google video explaining it embedded in this post.
- Jason Kincaid from TechCrunch has some neat videos showing the Chrome OS UI.
- Robert X. Cringely gives his own view, with an interesting interview with Larry Ellison, Oracle’s CEO, which can be viewed today as if it was Larry Page talking about Chrome OS. Different Larry, same vision?
- Tomas Kohl believes Chrome OS has a place. In bathrooms.
- Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins on siliconANGLE makes a stand on why Chrome OS won’t fail, and provides a nice set of links of those who think it will fail.
- Robert Scoble feels that Chrome OS is targeting at a totally new market.
- Tom Keating on his VoIP & Gadgets Blog reports the fact that there are VoIP apps that work on Chrome OS.
- Andrew MacDonald from Global IP Solutions looks at the security model of Chrome OS.