Google announced that it is doing a operating system known as Chrome OS. It says it is starting small, i.e., with netbooks first. but it has plans to extend it later to larger, more powerful computers.
Google doing an operating system for netbooks? That is not suprising. It does Andriod for smartphone. The next logical step is of course, to play with netbooks. Not that others have not thought about it. We already have netbook manufacturers playing with Andriod on netbooks. If Google has no plan an operating system for netbooks, it would had started one then. May be a supercharged Andriod, but as we now know, an “new” operating system.
I cannot see Google keeping Andriod and Chrome OS separate. If Chrome OS takes off, then the two will have to be merged to achieve the economy of scale and optimize the use of existing resources.
Chrome OS is still vapourware. Even when it materialize, it will take time, perhaps a year or two, and not before Google deliver a scale up of the operating system for box-standard computer before Microsoft is actually threaten. That is a lot of uncertainty yet, so those obligatory obituary for Microsoft, like this one, is permature at best. However, given the schizophrenic nature of Microsoft’s top management, I can imagine them freaking out.
What does this means for Linux? That’s my second thought, after Microsoft. It feels like: here we go again, yet another distribution. Move on…
Current plans put it as a fully web-enabled operating system. I can see that for the extreme low end netbook with no storage capacity whatsoever except for the operating system. This means it has to pull in everything from the internet. The appeal here will be price. The key challenge here will be how much it will cost to hook up to the internet. I cannot see access to internet to be free anytime soon. (Buying a cup of coffee to use the coffee shop’s WiFi means WiFi is not free).
Anything thing costing more will need offline or standalone functionality. This is the bigger challenge for Chrome OS: How it integrate the internet with standalone function that duplicate the on-line functionality. This is the space to watch.
As from the operating system front, expect Microsoft to hit back by injecting more vigour into operating system development. Like what Firefox does for browser, Chrome OS just have to be a viable challenge to Microsoft’s Windows from the view point of low end PC market to make operating system sexy again.