There must be some tech news today that doesn’t involve the Google Chrome OS announcement, but if there is, I can’t find it. The big news from Google and the upcoming new OS for netbooks is generating a lot of tongue wagging, but more importantly it is provoking a lot of thought. There are many ramifications about a Google Chrome OS that will continue to pop up over time and one of them has hit me right between the eyes: smartbooks. Those are the net-centric notebooks running ARM processors that were a hot item at the recent COMPUTEX trade show. Many of the prototype smartbooks being shown at COMPUTEX were running Android but now I’m thinking that likely won’t happen.
The Google announcement indicates the company’s initial aim is to ease onto the desktop through the netbook arena, and then to spread onto the big desktop. That makes sense, as netbooks are the hot ticket in this down economic climate, but I’m thinking the brand-new smartbook makes even more sense for Chrome. Google has stated that ARM processors will be native to Chrome and that is the core processor for most smartbooks under development. So far, Android has been the OS of choice with these smartbooks, but Chrome would be a bit more mainstream than Android for the laptop form.
Chrome OS is basically to be a browser-based OS running apps in the browser, sort of a pure cloud machine from the OS level up. That is a perfect fit for the smartbook — a cheap notebook designed for web work. The integrated connectivity that smartbooks offer makes perfect sense for a cloud OS like Chrome. It’s easy to envision an instant-on notebook that is always connected and always ready to roll. Hit the power switch and you’re on the web, which means that your OS is fully ready to go, since the browser is the OS. Pretty heady stuff.
I’m not the only one thinking along these lines either. Texas Instruments, the company behind the OMAP platform line that could power smartbooks, has already given us a statement about Google Chrome OS:
With strong support for the mobile computing and netbook markets, TI stands as an active participant in this Google initiative. Our proven and commercially shipping OMAP™ 3 hardware and software platforms inspire the industry’s most passionate developers in the open source community. TI leads the way in open source contributions from ARM-based applications processor vendors, and netbook products like those from ECS, Always Innovating and other yet-to-be-announced customers are strong testimony to what can be achieved by way of an open software philosophy.
Mobile computing appliances like netbooks are the tip of the iceberg in this rapidly evolving segment. A crucial aspect of such platforms is an integrated Linux software stack, which simplifies development and user usage models while still delivering a rich experience. Google’s initiatives, especially with today’s Chrome news, ease the challenges associated with creating this software stack. They also reiterate the browser’s important role in this revolution – a role that will spawn a whole ecosystem of application developers to simplify our lives with new products that revolutionize the way we communicate and interact with other humans and with machines.
You can almost see the smile on the face of Ramesh Iyer, Head of Worldwide Business Development for TI’s MID and netbook business unit, while reading TI’s statement. Like Qualcomm, creator of the “smartbook” term, TI is in a strong position with the OMAP platform for OEMs to jump on the Google Chrome OS train and they know it. They sent us this statement (soon to be online) just a few hours after the Google announcement. They are ready for the Google Chrome OS and I believe they are not the only ones in the mobile computing space. Here come the smartbooks, mark my words.