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Summary:

There sure are a lot of people writing about the Google Chrome OS. The pair of Googlers who wrote the blog post that kicked off the media frenzy included all the right buzzwords: “open source,” “lightweight operating system,” “netbooks,” and “community.” So exciting! I almost think […]

logo_smThere sure are a lot of people writing about the Google Chrome OS. The pair of Googlers who wrote the blog post that kicked off the media frenzy included all the right buzzwords: “open source,” “lightweight operating system,” “netbooks,” and “community.” So exciting! I almost think the working title should have been “Google Chrome OS Is Going To Change Everything.”

The sentiment in the Chrome OS announcement is that there is nothing that Google can’t improve upon. “[T]he operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web…[Google Chrome OS is] our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be.” An auspicious goal, to be sure — much like Google Wave, the company’s attempt to re-think, in its words, “what email would be if it were invented today.” But go a little deeper down the rabbit hole, and suddenly Google Chrome OS looks awfully familiar to another breakthrough product: the iPhone.

In June 2007, just before the iPhone was released, app developers didn’t have an SDK to play with — which at the time, Steve Jobs touted as being a good thing, saying:

And so you can write amazing Web 2.0 and AJAX apps that look and behave exactly like apps on the iPhone, and these apps can integrate perfectly with iPhone services. They can make a call, check email, look up a location on Gmaps…don’t worry about distribution, just put ‘em on an internet server. They’re easy to update, just update it on your server. They’re secure, and they run securely sandboxed on the iPhone. And guess what, there’s no SDK you need! You’ve got everything you need if you can write modern web apps…

Engadget felt it was “weeeeeaaaak.” Gizmodo said “No SDK sucks.” They were right, of course. Two years later, the fully SDK’d iPhone App Store has more than 50,000 apps that together have been downloaded more than a billion times. Web apps, then and now, are far from being the Next New Thing. And Google’s Chrome OS? Again, from the company’s blog post:

For application developers, the web is the platform. All web-based applications will automatically work and new applications can be written using your favorite web technologies. And of course, these apps will run not only on Google Chrome OS, but on any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux thereby giving developers the largest user base of any platform.

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  1. There is a difference: iPhone’s lack of an SDK was an omission, and the reliance on Web applications was in fact weak because there was no support for “local mode” and other necessities. In the case of Chrome OS, Gears and GWT and their toolchains are already there.

  2. The newly announced Chrome “OS” isn’t an OS – it’s a web browser running on top of Linux. It’s a bit much for them to call it an OS.

  3. This doesn’t makes any sense. Can you please explain how iPhone SDK release and Chrome OS are linked ?

  4. If Google OS has Gears and Crome and therefore access to the Linux kernel and storage device you use Chrome as the UI and a extension or plugin to access the system level services.

  5. Ok. So Windows can run everything that the Chrome OS can (will), but the converse is not true. So no reason to switch :-)

  6. Some of us don’t believe the hyperbole around the “all applications are web applications” that Google (and others preach). Kudos to Google for making another press announcement to drive up its stock price. It’s a tactic that just continues to work for them, regardless of whether or not anything comes of the technology.

  7. i can only believe that elgoog is throwing out a red herring here…clearly there is an sdk and we can expect more on this in coming months – also expecting more news about their long awaited cloud storage offering (aka ‘gdrive’ or’platypus’ and so on) to reduce hardware requirements and drive cost down…this is somewhere between what apple was pretending to do and what palm is actually doing right now – and so i’m inclined to believe that there’s a variation on the chrome browser for use by select developers, including major media entities…

    google is really trying to go it alone right now, and this “dominate in a vacuum” approach to moving all the way up and down the stack is antithetical to what modern collaborative development is all about…even apple and microsoft have learned over the years that some of the very best apps are put out by the world of third parties (think adobe, intuit, et al)…if google tries to recreate everything with 20k on staff in the face of millions employed by third parties (excluding apple and msft employees), they face a potential developer backlash unheard of in the industry when they roll out the tarball this year…the linux community alone will work tirelessly to kick it to the curb…

  8. I agree with an earlier comment.

    Of course there is an API. it is at multiple levels: Linux, HTML, broswer extensions, and the latest extensions to web standards like HTML provide the APIs for “Chrome OS”

    For me, I would equate Chrome OS with the iPhone if google tries to set itself up as gate keeper to apps that can be added. And given that they are opening the code, it is hard (but not impossible) to see how they could do that.

    I doubt it, based on their business model, and their past. And if they do not do that, then the connection begin drawn feels specious to me.

  9. You didn’t have to be a rocket scientist in the 90’s to see that Apple’s greed in controlling all apps would doom it, while Microsoft opened the doors to everyone. We now have Windows as King of the Hill. Comparing Linus to Chrome is like – yep – comparing apples and oranges. Linus was the little guy trying to muscle his way in. Google is already not only on most of Windows users’ PC’s, but on Mozilla’s and Safaris, and most of the other OS’s. That’s where Google has its feet, inside almost everyone’s system. I’ll use it because I believe in competition. If you don’t, don’t complain later that Windows will sneak in all kinds of stuff you don’t want, with nowhere else to turn to.
    And I’m only a mediocre PC user for pleasure, with minimum PC skills and knowledge.

  10. Google Launches Bookmarks Syncing With Chrome, After Killing It on Firefox Monday, August 3, 2009

    [...] servers will be a huge selling point (or detraction, for privacy advocates), if the company can make it work seamlessly. After the brouhaha over the lack of viability for web apps on the iPhone — see [...]

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