Google Chrome OS: A Scramble to Say Nothing

70 Comments

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I woke up this morning to see the whole world talking about Google’s (s goog) new operating system, Chrome OS, that is targeting  netbooks and desktops. I spent a big part of the morning reading many different stories and posts — and they say absolutely nothing, apart from chunks of information from the original blog post, which is, well, a lot of words that say nothing much. Meanwhile, The New York Times has the best overview of the Chrome OS announcement, so don’t bother reading anything else for now. The guys at jkOnTheRun sum up the release of the OS succinctly when they write:

A web, or cloud, OS that puts the bulk of all user activity firmly up in the web. No heavy lifting on the user’s netbook; that will all take place up in the cloud with the Chrome OS handling it all. This is so clever on Google’s part, and could very well turn the next page on cloud computing.

Stacey is currently working on our analysis, but I was hoping to get a conversation started with our community — what do you make of this new development? Do you think Google has what it takes to beat Microsoft, or will this prove to the the equivalent of a Hollywood starlet, hot today, not tomorrow?

70 Comments

Bryce

I think something being overlooked is the Google Native Client technology.

http://code.google.com/p/nativeclient/

What the Chrome OS will provide is pure speculation right now, but Google is working on technology that can enable rich, native applications to be safely run within their browser.

Eric

Two observations:
1. Google Apps (online or off) are simply not as good as client-side apps. Today. Most people will not want to use them for heavy word processing, image manipulation, databases, etc. Today. However, this is pretty classically disruptive… a worse product at a lower price (free). Google doesn’t need GM’s IT department to adopt this. They need a bunch of young consumers who mostly want to read email, Facebook, buy stuff. Over time the platform gets more robust, netbooks become more powerful and, tra la, they have a place in the market.

2. This is also a way for them to start to undermine Microsoft’s OS revenue – which is one of the pillars that keeps MS so rich and so powerful. If Goog can provide netbook companies with an environment that’s good enough for mass consumer adoption but is free the vendors will flock to it (more margin for them). As those initially “low power” machines grow up and become more powerful and the apps on top of them do the same (see above), they can take market share from WinTel. And all of this with a very small effort from G. This could literally take a decade or more… but it looks like Google has a good shot at being around that long.

Stacey Higginbotham

Agree. But especially if targeted at netbooks, a rich client-side experience isn’t as important. Many (not all) find heavy content creation on netbooks a miserable experience.

Eric

Completely agree – for today. Light-weight environment for light-weight tasks.

Think out a couple of years and a Netbook has all the power of a full laptop of today – now you can have either a light or heavier app experience all provided by the G people for free rather than by MS for $$$. (You can do minimal video editing on an iPhone 3GS – really minimal – today. What can we expect on a Netbook in X years?)

Alan Wilensky

Overheated rhetoric, from the originator and the commentators. The elite tech press should know better.

Will Chrome the OS bootload, manage the HAL (hardware abstraction layer, and GDI)?

If so, what advantage over Free OS Ubuntu? Others?

OS OS OS !!!!

And OS controls the hardware and I/O – creating and managing an OS takes up a large percentage of a company’s resources to cultivate driver ecosystem, developers, etc. I can’t believe that Google is going to re-invent the wheel.

Sriranjan

Looks like Google has started having its share of redundant projects. I don’t see why Android doesn’t do this.

Arpit

Hi Om – The Google blog claims Chrome is for netbooks..atleast to start off with.

Few days back folks at Trendsspotting provided evidences on Android’s fading buzz & the Google pet OS is approaching a “trough of dillusionment”. Android (or any linux OS offering) will become productive only via netbooks growth.

http://www.trendsspotting.com/blog/?p=1315

Now – if not chrome is a cloud based OS – then ain’t it relaunching a more productive Android with few more bells & whistles ?

Matt

Finally the browser will be able to access the OS directly as long as Google has a robust SDK and API which they have been developing with Gears .I see a bunch of plugins being developed that will use the browser as a UI and then get the OS to do the heavy lifting .

I wonder if it will come with apps like a built in Bittorrent app .

Jim Whiteley

Om,

Smart move by Google. It seems to me that it is all about virtualization. It good for the PC users because they can run Chrome OS when browsing and pop over to MS or OSX when necessary. It is good for Google because they believe over time the PC user will be popping less and less.

Does it hurt Apple? Microsoft? Sure. Google also believes they can integrate their app better and tighter to Chrome OS than Windows and Mac OS. In fact, Google can likely pay for the Chrome OS effort with the money they save testing Chrome under Windows and Mac OS.

Shyam Somanadh

Everyone is missing a crucial piece in the equation in their analysis – Google Gears. There has been pretty hectic development going on in Gears for Chrome alongside the other browsers and Gears come bundled with Chrome. This already enables you to work offline, store and also process data and sync it up with the cloud when it is available. Bundled with Chrome’s existing sandboxing, it will enable apps to securely store and process data without posing a risk to the underlying OS.

The best part is that you can already develop applications for this platform, since any web app that uses Gears will run fine on the GCOS too. The tougher part is to effect a change in mindset.

I think there is a flawed perception that Chrome is one of the apps that GCOS will run and anti-trust issues will force them to enable the use of other browsers on it. From what Google has said, this seems to be untrue. Chrome is the only application and platform available on GCOS, with the basic productivity suite enabled by Gears. Applications are basically going to be webapps, probably with some kind of custom hooks that trigger GCOS specific elements like start menus and preference panes (this is guesswork for most part from my end).

MDH

Android, Wave, Chrome, Chrome OS, YouTube, increasing search competition, etc etc

Seems to me that Google needs to be careful not to end-up with mediocrity across the board, awfully big bites they’re taking.

Tony Morgan

Some thoughts/possibilities:

I’ll bet that control panel apps (think wifi/network control, volume etc.) will be run from a local webserver, this would allow trivial customisation by OEM’s.
Having control over the full stack will allow easier hardware H.264 decoding in HTML5 video element – a boon for low powered netbooks.
What form will the X11 replacement take? Will Chrome be modified to render directly to the framebuffer, or will there be more to it than that? Also very much related, will there be Android app compatibility (as is planned in Ubuntu)?

Tim Panton

It will be interesting to see how Google plans to avoid the customer rejection of Linux on netbooks.
They will have to ensure that they get maximal driver support for things that people connect to their netbooks
like 3g dongles – cameras – ipods , those are what make XP attractive on a netbook.

Also Google will have a hard time giving away the codecs and DRM stuff that windows users expect.

Marcos Polanco

Om,

Google’s business model + carrier subsidies + netbook pricing + broadband stimulus = free Google Netbooks are suddenly viable and Chris Anderson finds redemption, and an end-run around the existing PC industry. Yes, the vaporware is a joke, but perhaps the timing is driven by the cost curves.

Marcos

Dean

If it’s anything like Android it will be a let down.

These Linux based netbook operating systems have been around for a long time. Just because Google is making one there is so much noise.

I’m not going anywhere near it, I’m happy with having desktop based software running on my computer. Anyone tried using the online version of Photoshop lately? Terrible!

Mahendra

The real challenge for Google will be Enterprises. That’s where MS rules and makes money, and Chrome OS’s real success largely depends on enterprise open source adoption.

The Chrome browser is notorious for the enterprise: Admins hate the Google auto-update philosophy and the lack of sophisticated deployment tools.

Chrome OS stands a good chance of succeeding as a consumer OS. That’s about it unless Google revamps its focus and devotes significant resources targeted towards the enterprise.

Subrahmanyam

Firstly its a netbook OS. While netbooks have seen early traction, its kind of too early to say if netbooks are here to stay. Stripped down versions initially attract attention, but gradually become bloated since users want more features and lesser gadgets. Secondly, a lot of netbook growth globally has been on the back of carrier subsidies in Europe and Japan. Not sure carriers want to continue doing that, particularly when data usage is forcing them to continuously upgrade. And thirdly, as you pointed out, its an empty announcement; probably aimed at the markets, and as usual, encouraging people to drink from the g00g koolaid!
One positive offshoot, in the next year before this “OS” releases, M$ might actually do something to fix IE ;)

NB

IMHO – its not too early to talk about the success of NBs. Netbooks have propelled in volumes sharply and its highly unlikely that the genie will be back in the bottle. Its a new class of device and Cloud OSes are a natural fit on a light machine. Almost no NB is sold by carriers (in the US) and different biz models, products, paradigms are bound to emerge just as they did on the smartphone side, only faster. This talk has been taking place over the last decade, maybe now we have reached the point that everything is in place to make it happen, so I would keep an open mind about it.

brandon h

Om,
I think this announcement portends the mass adoption of more cloud computing software and services (I say more because EVERYONE uses webmail) and push PCs into the hands of more people. With Google’s bet that the only OS you need is the one which only serves to connect you to the web, cloud computing now has a greater sense of legitimacy, instead of being an afterthought or sidebar.
Not surprisingly, they started off with netbooks, given the non-critical nature of these devices. If they successfully prove that low-end hardware can be effective in running serious, everyday applications, this will change the computing industry even more. We’ve already seen a shift in the price of hardware to price points unthinkable in years past; the success of Google’s Chrome OS would eliminate the MS OS cost, make computers even more affordable and really push computing into the hands of a larger slice of the global population. This is good news, IMHO.

Hank

In the past, we’ve seen this same moment. Sun Micro had always predicted the net computing concept. I think the “Cloud” has finally reached a level of robustness that “dumb terminals” can handle the basic processing needs of the average consumer. The true sign of Google’s strength will be in their ability to wiggle their way into the manufacturer relationships that Microsoft has dominated for nearly 30 years. Nearly 85% of the current netbooks shipped are loaded with Windows XP. If Google can give a price and speed advantage, they could dominate the low-end segment. Once Google gets its foot in the door, regular laptops and desktops would be their next target. Microsoft will not willingly give up its dominance here. It will be a slug fest.

The more important aspect of all of this will be what kinds of applications will be built on the Chrome platform. How open source will Google be? Will companies like IBM, Oracle and Salesforce embrace Chrome so that corporate solutions become ubiquitous on the Chrome platform? Blackberry maintains its dominance against Apple because of its integration with Corporate IT. Despite the success of the iPhone, I haven’t seen corporate IT running to rewrite code to run on Operating Sys X. If Google wants to truly change the game, they have to refine their product to be a TRUE alternative to Windows. Backward compatability has always been both Microsoft’s Ace in the Hole as well as its Achilles heal. Given past history, I don’t see this ending too well for Google.

Atul Chitnis

What amazes me over and over again is how people rush to call web-apps “limiting”, yet they forget that Google themselves are the kings of webapps – Google Mail, Google Docs, etc. All very usable apps, and being used every day by gadzillions of people.

My prediction? Web-apps will eventually replace native apps for most everyday things except for performance hungry things like games. With always-on connectivity, that you can assume just like you can assume electricity, it’s a given.

CJ Millisock

I think Google’s stance on web apps has a serious flaw. The end user’s experience is not always better using a web app vs an installed app. Take the iPhone for example. Google is *completely* copping out by refusing to build a Gmail iPhone app. The iPhone web app for Gmail is incredibly slow. HTML 5 simply doesn’t hold a candle to the iPhone’s SDK.

Web apps have a huge advantage over installed apps for one reason: portability. If your data is in the cloud, it doesn’t disappear when you travel between computers. But if your computer is your mobile device, you might as well use an installed app that syncs with the cloud. The end user’s experience is so much richer then.

I agree that web apps will eventually replace native apps for most everyday things, but I don’t think that day will come until fiber optic connections exist everywhere. The entire backbone of the internet needs to be fiber, not just fiber to the home. And even then, wireless data transmission will be a huge bottleneck.

Thyaga

Microsoft must takes this seriously and innovate quickly around their business model. This is not one of those fake threats. Google mean business ($) and they have a good vision. They have already demonstrated their execution capabilities.

Girish Bhat

Networking issues – DNS, IP addressing, broadband connectivity will determine if the Netbook can be ready in few seconds.

As I am not going to ditch my Blackberry anytime soon, why do I need a Chrome OS Netbook?

Om Malik

I just have not been able to get cozy with netbooks though rest of our team loves them. I love the macbook air — it is a perfect size netbook — for me it makes a lot of sense. regardless, i think these guys need to be careful — in the past the stripped down OS’s have not quite worked.

Matt

Isnt the Macbook Air basicly Apples overpriced version of a Netbook ;)

rimesparse

What’s the timetable for Azure? I forget. Microsoft may beat them to the cloud OS anyway.

Chuck Tanowitz

For a while now I’ve heard chatter about Android running Netbooks and other lightweight PCs. Some developers think it’s a good idea, some say not so much. I’m not sure, though, why Google decided to bring this out as a Chrome-branded product and not put it firmly in the Android camp.

As for the idea of doing everything in the cloud, it seems like yet another very logical step in that direction.

Laith

for many people the noise is mainly generated by the “anything but MS” crowd. without having any real info the analysis are everywhere.
You can only judge Google OS when it arrive, and it start to be used by people, concept and papers and blog post are marketing tools not technology tools, till then , it will be more like Google fans against MS fans

Om Malik

For sure… we are working on a post right now which is looking at various issues and are trying to make sense of it. It is a joke that this thing won’t ship till 2010. It is no less vaporware or confusing as Google Wave. I think the company needs to announce things just to keep people interested in them and not lose attention of the tech industry to Facebook, Twitter.

Laith

I totally agree Om,
after reading few articles about the new Chrome OS, it seem like an PR answer to Ms Gazelle that got some hype yesterday for no real reason either. even though at least they had a paper associated with Gazelle.

Fred Amarole

Google’s announcement also validates Microsoft’s long standing position that the browser should be part of the OS.

gbp

Om,
Why would shipping the new OS in 2010 make it a joke ?
I don’t think google is announcing it to keep people interested.
They wrote in their blog on why their products are different w.r.t to competition.
In the past they announced new products such as picasa, gmail , Chrome and Android.
And they were successful with their products.

You have to take a serious look at the porting of Android on netbooks.
This will be a big deal, and will prompt APPLE, PALM …. the likes to think in the same direction.

Poor Microsoft has to work hard now. Bing anyone ?

Benoit Felten

My thought as a customer is that apps is what makes people captive with Windows. Ultimately, that’s where the issue will lie. I have a huge legacy of powerpoint slides that are worth a lot to me professionally. If I have to move that to a software that can’t handle them properly, I’m staying with Windows no matter how clunky it is.

In other words, the OS is not enough.

Pablo

I couldn’t agree more…new OSes are fine and dandy but what people really use their computers for is the applications. I believe the Google OS could be successful in non-enterprise related activities and for users that have no use for something like Office. Even as a student, it’s hard to try and use non-Windows Office products for presentation, word processing, etc. The network effects of Office alone should create a legacy platform that will sustain win-based OSes for a while. I mean, Google Docs, in it’s current form is simply a joke compared to Word, Excel, PPT.

Jim

Yeah, I fell into the ‘trap’ of rushing to comment too (http://blogs.ibo.org/ibonline/2009/07/08/google-chrome-os-web-30/) and I have seen a lot of rehashed commentary since then…but…I still feel people are missing a key piece of the puzzle.

I expect Google Chrome OS to heavily push Google Connect…or more accurately, to seamlessly and quietly implement it. It won’t necessarily be the OS that is the next big thing, it’ll be the portal capabilities.

Dom

Apple’s original concept for iPhone “web apps” failed for a reason. They’re just to limiting.

Why would I choose a stripped down Linux that can only run web apps over a full Linux that can run web apps and a host of other useful software?

Jigar Mehta

Even if this happens, why shouldn’t EU ask Google to ship the (Cloud)OS without bundling browser? And if it does, what will shipped product be left with? Not sure if its a good idea to give user just the web.. platform is as important atleast now.

Om Malik

I am with you – it is perfectly fine and legitimate to bundle your own browser but it would mean that they need to support Firefox and others in this OS as well.

Fred Amarole

The sound you just heard was the EU’s anti-trust case against Microsoft being thrown out the window.

Bob Lozano

One of these times Google will use up all of the stamps on their “get out of jail” free pass, but this may or may not be it. Will the EU treat G the same? They should, but …

Ironic that on the same day as the Google OS was announced and Gmail went out of beta I wasted a few hours trying to figure out why the sync between Gmail contacts and the mac address book was broken.

Irritated to find out that it had been broken for months (maybe six or more), Google didn’t acknowledge the problem and in fact continues to advertise the service as working, and that on a thread on their own support forum users had figured out the problem and posted a work around.

The weird irony is that nobody was mad at Google in the thread – just another punch on the “G can do no wrong, get out of jail free’ punch card.

Nobody, and I mean nobody else in the industry can get away with such shoddy practices, and they won’t forever either.

Cheese

Wow, when exactly did it become perfectly fine and legitimate to bundle an OS with a browser? And I’m not even talking of a search of your hard disk being extended to cloud searches.

I do see a eels way out. The browser is free, the OS is free, the search is free. So what am I complaining about? That we pay for everything else. Yes we all pay unwittingly for the money machine that is triggered by ad words. To catch the eel, someone will have to make a case for exploiting the monopoly in search space for well..extending it to the internet of devices.

gbp

I am not sure the reasoning behind your “RIP” statement.
All the email providers ( hotmail, yahoo …… ) does have some sensitive data. So are the wireless carriers.
Why target Google ?

Microsoft , Yahoo , Google and telcos can mine the usage data and profile them for their business use.

I highly doubt that all these companies will sell sensitive information ( your first name , last name DOB, SSN, address ) flat out.

Besides , its a ground breaking effort to change the personal computing.

In early 90’s
I waited three minutes for my PC to boot up to the dos prompt after the clicking noise of hard drive stopped.

In the late 1990s
it was the same old 3 minutes boot up for Win 95 or Win98.

In the early and late 2000’s
It is rather five to ten minutes based on what virus software you have.

Mac did change a bit of that, but not really ground breaking. If google can get the os to boot up with always on browser , hmm I say this will kick in the next PC operating system battle.

Om Malik

Or the company called GoodOS, which is actually a Taiwanese-backed company based in East Bay which had been trying this and working with Google to port and integrate Google services into the Web OS.

tom

i have not neard any mention about the impact this could have on apple. that could be significant. apple is esentially the only alternative to windows right now for the mainstream consumer. chrome powered name brand machine could finnally be another alternative and attract thoose who do not want windows and may have otherwise gotten a mac.

Mike Cerm

Considering that Apple doesn’t make affordable computers, there isn’t really a direct threat to Apple here. There’s nothing in Chrome OS that will appeal to Pros who use Macs.

Apple’s other constituency, rich white people, also aren’t likely to jump ship simply because there’s another alternative. They could be update their Facebook status just fine on Windows, but they buy Macs for display as a status-symbol, and so they can rub elbows with other rich white people at the Genius Bar when something goes wrong.

Unless Google creates something as iconic and exclusive (which isn’t their intention at all), and delivers a similar level of service (which Google has no experience doing), then Apple has little to worry about.

Mike Cerm

And just so we’re clear, I do understand that sometimes rich people of other races buy Macs, too. The decision to buy a Mac by (by people who don’t edit video for a living) is governed by income and vanity, not by race.

Usually Named

Yeah, which is why you specially said “White” in your first posting. Nice tap dance. Not.

roadknight

Mike, put your hands out, drop the Accusatory Flippant White Liberal Guilt and step away from the keyboard. In your rush to dismiss Mac owners as either black-turtleneck wearing, Galois-smoking artistes or vapid status-conscious yuppies, you completely (dis)miss those of us who own them because they generally just work.
I can start an xterm, use GCC, OpenOffice and iTunes doesn’t bitch at me about crufty DLLs when I want to listen to some music. What’s not to love ?

I’m so tired of this “People buy Apple because it’s a status symbol” canard. I own a Mac because it works and it lasts. This is only the second Mac in 7 years I’ve owned. Compare that to the 12-16 months I’ve gotten out of various PC craptops. Macs run UNIX at their core, come with sensible system defaults and don’t require nearly the setup or post-purchase tweaking that a Windows or Linux system does. My Mac travels around in my backpack all the time, functional, yet hidden away from all those who you think I seek to impress with it. I don’t ask my stuff to impress people. I just ask it to work.

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