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The Google (s goog) announcement today put the upcoming Chrome OS in the spotlight as an OS based entirely on the Chrome web browser, aimed at replacing legacy desktop systems from Microsoft (s msft) and Apple (s aapl). Systems with Chrome OS will not hit the market until mid-2011 according to Google, but web-centric Jolicloud is currently available for those who want to see what the fuss is about. It has a lot more in common with Chrome OS than you might think.
Both Jolicloud and Chrome OS have a Linux kernel for interacting with the hardware. Chrome OS uses the Chrome browser as the user interface and all activities take place within the browser. Jolicloud uses Chromium as the interface, which is the open-source version of Chrome OS produced by Google. All user activity takes place within this Chromium interface, just like Chrome OS.
While Chrome OS and Jolicloud are similar in nature, they have some big differences. Jolicloud is developed by a small company for end-user installation, and is thus designed to work on existing hardware. This limits what can be done by the developers of Jolicloud, as they must deal with constraints put on them by the hardware. Google has the clout to work with hardware makers, and has designed some aspects of Chrome OS for new hardware to make it work as desired. OEMs have responded to Google’s needs, giving Chrome OS systems an advantage over standard systems with Jolicloud installed.
A big advantage that Chrome OS has over Jolicloud is the Chrome Web Store. Google is working with major developers to produce web apps for Chrome OS, and Jolicloud can’t duplicate that effort. The Chrome Web Store is already open for business, though the OS isn’t commercially available yet. The sneak peek that Google has provided of early apps makes it clear there will be solid apps available. While these apps may run under Jolicloud — they are web apps after all — it’s not a given.
Those wondering what all the fuss is about web-centric OSes can take Jolicloud for a test drive to see first-hand. It can be run totally online on any system with the Google Chrome browser.
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