Yet another post (like everyone else) on Google Chrome OS

Originally posted at Youthpad.

The tech news that got everybody’s attention today was Google’s announcement of a new operating system called Google Chrome OS. Google is the 500-pound gorilla in the field of web applications and every single move they make is bound to generate a lot of excitement. Throughout the day major news outlets, tech blogs, Twitter – all were abuzz with discussions on Google Chrome OS.

You might have heard of Google’s Chrome web browser. It’s a new browser – under development right now – just like Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer. Chrome browser has been praised often for being faster than other browser in the market on multiple counts – such as rendering a page, executing Javascript code, etc. Google did use quite a few innovative concepts when developing this browser. That said, it can be a bit unstable at times; so if you’re the kind who doesn’t like experimenting with software then stick to Firefox or IE.

Google Chrome OS (not the browser) is based on the concept of having a minimal interface with every work being done using a web application. Want to create/edit documents? Use Google Docs. Want to edit a picture? Do it online. Chrome OS is definitely not a challenger to Windows XP / Vista / 7. It’s an operating system restricted only to ‘netbooks’ – small-sized laptops such as the Asus Eee PC which are mainly used for browsing the Internet.

My thoughts on this news is that Chrome OS will be a big failure. Just because the devices on which it run are called ‘netbooks‘ doesn’t mean that they are always connected to the Internet. It doesn’t mean that a web interface is the magical solution to every problem. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be fast. Agreed that Chrome OS will start within seconds, but performance after that will be your-mileage-may-vary depending on how good your Internet connection is.

Say you want to listen to music. Is a web-based player the ideal solution for a situation like this? Definitely not. Or say you want to use your netbook to check some documents when you’re travelling – on a train or a plane. You can’t! Something as simple as thing will be impossible with Chrome OS. 24×7 net connectivity is all well and good if you’re in a developed country. Simply walk into a Starbucks or roam around public places and you’ll find Wi-Fi hotspots. But say someone comes over from there to…India. Now his netbook is nothing but an extremely expensive paperweight. And even then, connectivity issues can be a problem abroad too.

I know that some of you are going to bring up Google Gears now. Google Gears allows web applications to work in ‘offline mode’ and then synchronize it later with a web server. But then why bother making an OS which is a glorified browser running web apps and then create workarounds to make them work offline? Why not simply make a native lightweight operating system with option to sync with your stuff stored online when there’s connectivity? Surely that makes more sense.

In order to provide a boot-up time in seconds, Google gave no thought to common sense. However, nobody has seen Chrome OS till now of course. We can only go by what Google has told us about it. RMS will be shitting bricks when Chrome OS comes out saying ‘web applications aren’t free enough‘ (they aren’t). Time will tell how good it is and whether people bother to buy devices using this.

Let’s throw that open as a question. Would you buy a laptop on which you can work only if you’re connected to the Internet, but can start up within seconds? Leave your two cents below on this topic.

6 replies on “Yet another post (like everyone else) on Google Chrome OS”

I think that they have done something that is far ahead of its time. Distributed cloud operating systems is the best way forward as devices get tinier and tinier, while our expectations get bigger and bigger. So, having the processor do the dedicated graphics computation makes sense, and of course the odd 2 bits when lag kicks in. However, this presupposes as you said perfect connectivity, and I think that the day for that shall come but it is still a bit far away to go out and buy such a notebook.

Although there are ways and means to fool the user into thinking that they have perfect connectivity, for e.g. use a buffer and send the data as strings for stuff like games. Basically send in the computed vector co-ordinates, lighting, and rendering details as a small text file that an interpretor can reconstruct and run. So, as you jack off around in the game the text files go back and forth and the computation takes place on the server and the text file comes back where your computer is instructed to display it using its decoder.

Something like what used to happen in the early days of computing when they would move around these tapes they wanted to read them, but different computers used different formats. So, what one of these guys did was that he added a bunch of data at the starting of the tape consisting of pointers, and instructions to read the tape itself.

Basically, the tape itself carried its own runtime environment(analogous to it, anyway. I wouldn’t call it a codec as it did everything). Now what we can do is that we can download a r.e. at the start of the session and just send in text files with the appropriate commands, and function calls to do something. This would be a more efficient, better manner than downloading a whole image every time. You might say that a cache already does this, that we keep content on the disk, but that’s not what I want. I want the entire recipe to be downloaded to the user’s books so that seamless integration can work on even choppy net speeds.

I’ll bet you all I have that this is precisely what Google is going to do.

Oh and I won’t buy it. I am saving for OS X.

Frankly, I think that Google’s announcement was partly influenced by Microsoft’s announcement of Gazelle. At some level they felt threatened by it because Google (rightly) thinks of itself as the leader in the field of web applications right now and wanted to have something in place to match Gazelle – just for the heck of it.

The idea’s nice, it just won’t work now. Web apps are terrific for collaborative work and there’s certainly at least that niche they can corner. 5…maybe 10 years down the line Chrome OS would have been a viable idea with more reliable Internet connectivity.

BTW, Google is working on a 3D standard for browsers but not in the way you’re thinking. The official blog of the O3D project has demos and videos of developers working on the project. So are Mozilla and Opera.

True. Probably people get confused between SaaS and Software+Service. Feasibility is definitely a factor for which Google may have face the doodles!

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