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 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.