Monday, 13 July 2009

10 things you need to know about Google Chrome Operating System

1. What exactly is Chrome OS?

Google Chrome OS is the company's first attempt at designing an operating system for more powerful computers. The Google partnered Android has done well for mobile platforms, and it now wants to take the work it has done there, tie it up with the work it is doing on its still-fresh Chrome browser and make the first 'OS for the cloud' – with most of the work being done on the net rather than on the computer.

"Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS," said Google's statement. "We're designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds.

"The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web."

2. When will we able to use Chrome OS?

Google has confirmed that it will be making code available to developers later this year and predicts that we will be buying the first Chrome OS powered netbooks by the second half of next year.

"Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010," said Sundar Pichai, VP Product Management and Linus Upson, Engineering Director on the Google blog.

"Because we're already talking to partners about the project, and we'll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve."

3. So Microsoft need not worry about competition for Windows 7 then?

On the contrary; Google Chrome OS is a first foray from Google into a more powerful operating system, and by 'initially' targeting netbooks it is immediately going to be treading on Windows 7's toes. Microsoft designed Windows 7 to be scaleable – useable on everything from netbooks and high end desktops – and Google not only has the financial clout to compete with the Redmond software giant, it is also likely to gain favour by its cloud approach.

With people increasingly used to having their information and tools online, from webmail to docs, from calendars to chat, Google appears to be asking if we really need an OS that deals with our desktop, and not simply an interface for the web.

Plus, should it prove to be a success, you can guarantee that more powerful computers will begin to look at Chrome OS as a viable alternative to Windows 7. By using the word 'initially', Google is making a statement of serious intent in the OS arena.

On the plus side for Microsoft, it will have at least 9 months to get market share and persuade people that they don't need an alternative to Windows 7

4. Will it run on my computer?

"Google Chrome OS will run on both x86 as well as ARM chips and we are working with multiple OEMs to bring a number of netbooks to market next year," says Google.

Compatibility is a big thing for Google, but by using a Linux kernel with a windowing system, and working with powerful partners, Chrome OS will be able to run on most PC platforms.

5. If it's so heavily web integrated, will it be secure enough?

Google certainly thinks so. Security is what many would term a 'hygiene' problem. You expect your computer to be secure and you notice, and notice hard, when it isn't.

" we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don't have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work," says Google.


6. So is this being done entirely in-house by Google?

No. Google has already appealed to the open source community to get behind the project – which is built on the open Linux kernel.

"We have a lot of work to do, and we're definitely going to need a lot of help from the open source community to accomplish this vision."

By making the browser the central component to the OS, Google is extending an already huge platform - the web - meaning that anyone designing for web standards will be well catered for.

Chrome web browser - the starting point of google chrome os

7. So how will this make my computing experience better?

Google is hoping that 'it just works' which is probably the mantra being rolled out at Apple and Microsoft HQs about their operating systems as well.

Chrome OS is heavily web based. It's perhaps the most focused on bringing the web into the mix and offering a 'cloud' operating system from the ground up.

"Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS," says Google. "We're designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds."

So what is the functionality that Chrome hopes to bring?

"People want to get to their email instantly, without wasting time waiting for their computers to boot and browsers to start up," says Google.

"They want their computers to always run as fast as when they first bought them. They want their data to be accessible to them wherever they are and not have to worry about losing their computer or forgetting to back up files.

"Even more importantly, they don't want to spend hours configuring their computers to work with every new piece of hardware, or have to worry about constant software updates."

8. What does this mean for Android?

Android is the Google backed mobile phone platform, whereas Chrome OS is designed specifically for more traditional computers. Although Android netbooks are appearing, Chrome OS may well shunt Android back to the mobile phone when it arrives next year, although Google is hedging its bets somewhat.

"Google Chrome OS is a new project, separate from Android." explains Google.

"Android was designed from the beginning to work across a variety of devices from phones to set-top boxes to netbooks.

"Google Chrome OS is being created for people who spend most of their time on the web, and is being designed to power computers ranging from small netbooks to full-size desktop systems.

"While there are areas where Google Chrome OS and Android overlap, we believe choice will drive innovation for the benefit of everyone, including Google."

Google's android - still the key for mobiles

9. Will this sound the death knell for Ubuntu and Fedora?

Google making its own Linux based OS will certainly be a major 'competitor' for other flavours of Linux, like Ubuntu, with the powerful company likely to attract a big swathe of developers into the Chrome OS camp.

More importantly will be the reaction of the consumers; netbooks have helped fuel a boost for several Linux flavours – gaining entry into homes that may never have considered an open-source OS, but Chrome OS will, no doubt, capture a large share of that particular market on reputation alone.

Saying that, the open source ethos of Linux will hopefully be retained in the Chrome OS project and that's a good thing for everyone.

10. How much will it cost?

It's Linux based, it's open-source; it will almost certainly be free. Of course Google may make money with corporate support, should it become competitive for enterprise.


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