Google Chrome OS: big deal or no deal?

Today, Google announced its brand new ‘Chrome OS.’  Only, it’s not really new. And what Google is bringing to the table is not really an operating system.  They are marrying the Chrome browser to a new windowing environment that runs on Linux.  This windowing system will present a user interface that is minimal and will ‘stay out of your way.’  There goes the Mac crowd and many of the Windows fan boys too.

Chrome OS will run on Intel and ARM chips and, initially, will target the oh-so-coveted netbook market.  Now, I’m sure there will be more than one company that will jump at the chance to put out one of these devices sans a ‘real’ operating system like Windows or OS X in favor of this lightweight Chrome OS because it will be free and will have taken the ‘shine’ from Ubuntu (what will Shuttleworth do now?)

Applications for the ‘OS’ will be similar to those that run on Palm’s webOS:  use JavaScript, CSS and HTML.  In other words, web ‘apps’.  So, rather use traditional tools and take advantage of the real underlying operating system, these applications will be limited to web standards.  Don’t get me wrong, there is quite a bit that you can do with applications built this way, but there is quite a bit that you cannot.  Technologies such as Flash and Silverlight might enable web applications with more sophisticated abilities, but those technologies are not built with web standards.  Those are ‘native’ to the underlying operating system.  They have to be.

Where Chrome OS might find a good home are the devices like the Crunchpad and other so-called ‘mids’.   Small, hand held devices like these could benefit from something like ChromeOS.  You are not going to be running Photoshop or even PowerPoint on these things, but you will be playing simple games and browsing the internet.  Chrome OS might be perfect for such simple tasks like that.

I do have questions about this whole scheme.  Google says they will open source Chrome OS.  So, how are they going to make money with this? Ads?  As soon as you connect, are you going to get an ad?  What happens when there is no connectivity?  Do you lose your ability to run applications?  Since Linux is the underlying-and REAL-operating system, I’m guessing you could run Linux apps.  But, how rich would that experience be with a user interface that stays out of the way?  Questions, so many questions.

I don’t think Microsoft nor Apple (or even Ubuntu) have anything to be concerned with as far as Chrome OS goes. 

Link: Google Chrome OS announcement

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