What you Need to Know about Google’s Chrome OS


Google (s goog) held their developer and press event today to show off the upcoming Google Chrome operating system. The source code for Chrome OS is open source and available as of today, so theoretically, you can build your own Chrome OS. However, the actual release isn’t planned until late in 2010.

Some takeaways from the live stream that I watched:

  • Every application in Chrome OS will be a web-based application — there won’t be any local apps installed
  • You can pin shortcuts to apps in the browser
  • Fast boot times (under 7 seconds) will be partially due to the light environment, but also due to the requirement for Solid State Disk storage
  • No mention of smartbooks; Chrome OS looks targeted solely for netbooks
  • Support for X86 and ARM, so there’s still hope for smartbooks running Chrome OS
  • All Google apps you see today will look and behave exactly the same in Chrome OS
  • Android apps will not be compatible — remember, no local apps installed.
  • Google will actually sell the netbook hardware work with partners on the hardware that runs the operating system
  • Main use case for Chrome OS requires connectivity, such as Wi-Fi. Google is planning for 802.11n support
  • Chrome OS devices aren’t intended to be your primary machine. Google assumes you have a second computer at home or work
  • Google was coy on device pricing but said to expect prices that customers are used to today. I take that to be around $300 to $400
  • Local user data is simply stored in a cache. The book of record for your data will be on Google’s servers
  • You won’t need a Chrome OS machine to use it. Most all of the Chrome OS features will be baked into the Chrome browser.
  • Interesting approach to security: Chrome OS barely trusts itself. Every time you restart your computer the operating system verifies the integrity of its code. If your system has been compromised, it is designed to fix itself with a reboot.”

There’s more info to digest, which I’ll be doing over the afternoon. Suffice it to say, Chrome OS isn’t an “operating system” by traditional standards. This is more of a paradigm shift to determine what an OS is and a way to get consumers more reliant on the web where possible. In some sense, I feel that this is more bare-bones than I wanted to see. But that feeling comes from how we’ve defined an operating system up to now. I’m planning to step back and re-think my point of view because I’ve always felt that I can live in a browser. I did it before for 60-days with a safety net — the question now is: can I do it without the net?



Someone at Google made the wrong strategic decision. Instead of adding Chrome-OS like features to Android and elevating it to Netbooks like Intel is doing with Moblin’s versatile targets, the have decided to go with something most of us will never really use (besides as a browser). Not running Android on it is probably the stupidest thing they could ever design for.



I wouldn’t say it’s stupid. I think it’s a calculated decision on their part. I just think it’s the wrong decision.


The biggest reservation about the Chrome OS I hold is the same reservation I apply to the Android phone platform. And it’s this: This is cloud computing, but cloud computing on Google’s terms. When you boot your Android, the only integration you (can easily) get is Google’s. You enter your Google account details almost on startup!

The Chrome OS will no doubt be heavily integrated into Google’s online offerings and this is what I really don’t like. The platform is designed to encourage people to use Google’s cloud to help satiate their appetite for people’s personal information.

I use Google’s GMail offering, contacts and calendar, part by choice and part by necessity (Live mail doesn’t support IMAP!), but it’s important because it’s choice. I feel Chrome OS is just Google’s way of tieing more people to their cloud, rather than thee cloud.


I think Dell will be the one to first manufacture something like this. Google is supposedly working closely with Ubuntu (Canonical). Ubuntu’s relationship with Dell will probably flourish as Dell also releases something like the Chrome OS on a device. Especially now that Dell is getting into the Android business…

David G

What will make this thing work is the simplicity. Forget fast boot times. This is not a performance thing, it’s a simplicity thing. Personally, I think the iPhone is the better phone BECAUSE it doesn’t multitask. Who needs to multitask on their phone? Similarly, this OS could hit a really nice spot for those who really don’t need a big OS and apps.

This is a netbook killer, really. What if you could buy a laptop for $150-200 and it was actually fast and easy to use? That’s what google is going to roll out. I could also see it going for free with 3G dataplan — throw in a googlevoice account with the new Gizmo thingy, and now you have a phone + browser.


“Who needs to multitask on their phone?”

Me. I bounce back and forth between apps all the time on my old N810 (precursor to the N900), and on my G1 (whose multitasking is lousy, but still somewhat there). Being able to quickly check on something in another app, and then pick up the first app right where I left it (mid-processing even) is VERY valuable to me. If I had to close and re-start an app every time that happened, it would be annoying, counter-productive, and most likely a deal breaker.

As for the overall idea, it’s nothing new. Chrome is nothing more than a modernization of the same concept as X-Terminals, Citrix thin clients, and Sun’s Javastations. None of which lasted the test of time. Further, going back to your iPhone reference, even the iPhone eventually had to add native apps. The “web apps only” approach was seen as a major mis-feature of the original iPhone product.

It’s possible for a company to succeed where others have failed. So I am not going to say “Google will fail with Chrome OS if they don’t add some form of local application support” … but the odds are DEFINITELY against them. They’re heading into territory where MANY have failed.


I find it hard to believe that anyone is going to spend money on a “computer” that can do less than an iPhone. (And these ChromeOS machines can’t even dump songs onto that iPhone….) There’s absolutely no target market here. They’re squeezed by iPhones on one side and $300 netbooks on the other.


I’m sceptical about this being ideal for the “Regular User” who just wants it to work.

While Most users may be pretty happy to spend time in the browser, most people using netbooks use them for other things such as entertainment, chat,etc.

And for things like that especially if you plan to step outside the google ecosystem (Skype, Live messanger) people are going to notice the limitations FAST. and while Its being marketed as a companion device, much like Netbooks originally were, people, especially “regular” non technical users will not often realise the inherent limitations, and blame the product for something that it was never meant to do.

Also, the Touted benefits such as fast boot times seem like a bit or red herring as most computers have standby, and most computer can come out of it within 1 to 5 seconds. The Boot really only matter for the rare restart which comes maybe once or twice a month.


I wouldn’t even call it a paradigm shift. It’s google’s version of a thin client. Such as X-Terminals, Citrix thin clients, and Sun’s Javastations. Same idea, just a different method of delivery and implementation.

And we all saw how well Javastations sold.


Kevin looking forward to your further thoughts after digesting today’s announcement of Chrome OS.
Looking at the video and other stuff it had me thinking of the development of instant boot OSes e.g. Phoenix Instant Boot which have largely gone no where. This time we have the power of a major brand behind a fast boot OS. This one could well fly and fly high. Even Microsoft would have to admit the logic as detailed in the video at least for inital boot is sound. All you have to provide is an easy way to beyond it to a full OS if required and you have everything. Will a two stage web connect then optional go to offline OS be Windows future. Can’t wait for the future to bring the answer. It’s like a Dan Brown novel – damned exciting!

David G

Good enough for most… Still needs OS functionality to do things like connect to wifi/3g… wonder how well that will work?

I have been migrating most of my stuff to the ‘net, even as an IT guy. But some stuff cannot be, like RDP, network file management, and we’re still waiting on real web based replacements for things like Visio, Photoshop (pro), etc.


Like many, for me the connected to the web requirement severely limits confidence. Probably seen too many disaster movies not to mention real life events like Hurricane Katrina etc.
This is only a first shot though. Could not a version come with the same interface but using an Android like OS to provide an offline based alternative.
Microsoft maybe thinking phew no threat to their big revenue earning Windows server market but as someone else pointed out substitute Web connected to corporate network connected for a Chrome OS and you have something that could pose a big threat to Microsoft. Incredible how far Google have come from just being a search engine. Wow


There is also the fact that netbooks are frequently improving their specs, such as with ION. This would have been cool a year ago, but I only see it being used in the future on the lowest end of the netbook spectrum.


Privacy Issues aside, the need to be aways connected to the web is a deal breaker for me.


With the way chrome treats your private info, I would stay away from this.


@Kevin: Was any mention of privacy about the information stored through ChromeOS? Also, would you be concerned about the security of information stored on Google’s servers?


Security != Privacy.

Security may prevent a hacker from getting at your data but privacy will stop Google handing it over to governments or other companies. With Google’s poor track record on privacy you’d be a fool to rely on them to look after your data.


This is a common theme with Google and no one seems to care about the privacy in any of their apps or OS’s. Google voice is the worst. Any voicemail left for you is transcribed, indexed and stored. What more could the government ask for. All the evidence they need is with Google. Who needs Wiretaps. The price of freedom? Free…when dealing with Google and everyone is buying into it in droves.

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