TotalCIO

Jul 8 2009   2:36PM GMT

Is Google Chrome OS a turning point or yawner?

mschlack Mark Schlack Profile: mschlack

Nothing fuels the tech press like wars. So I have no doubt that we will see an endless string of reports from the battlefield over the next many months on the struggle between Google and Microsoft for world dominance. Wake me up when it’s all over.

Google’s announcement of its intention to field a Linux based, browser-centric operating system for netbooks and eventually most client machines comes at a strange time in the history of operating systems. Now, operating systems matter less than ever.

Once upon a time, your choice of operating system dictated your choice of processor, which often meant your choice of hardware vendor. It also dictated what applications were available to you and from whom. The only mainstream operating system that you can still say that about is the Mac OS.

Chrome OS will do none of those things. It will run on all the same hardware that Windows runs on, plus ARM-based systems. It will run browser-based applications, which will also run on any other browser. Undoubtedly, Google Apps will work really well on Chrome OS. Google is also suggesting it will deliver better security, easier configuration and quicker performance than the incumbents.

History (especially of desktop Linux) suggests that it will have to be a quantum leap better at all those things to make a dent. We can only hope they achieve that, since regardless of who delivers those attributes, they are desirable. But more to the point, Chrome OS comes at a moment when desktop operating systems are themselves in danger of becoming a big so what.

By the time Chrome OS shows up, desktop chips will likely have hardware-assisted virtualization. Increasingly, hypervisors will determine the performance characteristics of the system – how well they manage memory, how well they interact with CPUs, etc. With storage and applications increasingly being network-driven, the operating system’s chief function may well become the user interface. How security functions will be parceled out between hypervisor and operating system is perhaps an open question, so that function may still be crucial.

Nonetheless, the world Chrome OS makes its debut in will be one where operating systems can be swapped willy-nilly, where applications don’t care what OS they run on, and where, frankly, users may not either.

Google’s main impact may well be nontechnical, forcing Microsoft to drop prices and (just) maybe to improve Windows. Call me a contrarian or curmudgeon, but I think this development is more important to shareholders of both combatants than IT managers. How about it, CIOs? Game changer or no biggie?

6  Comments on this Post

 
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  • LorenaK
    Over 30 million people are using Google Chrome browser regularly. And there are several reasons why you should get this new Google Operating System or Chromes OS. It's good to know that you can get the Google operating system without needing [A href="http://personalmoneystore.com/Payday-Loans/"]payday loans[/A] and the unending amount of registration that comes with Microsoft products. The big news on the software front these days is about the Google operating system that is beginning to debut. The Google operating system is being released as a competitor to Windows 7, and the Google OS, or Chrome OS, bears the same name as the internet browser they released last year, and best of all will be free. It is set to begin debuting on netbooks, and its primary focus is online applications. Press for it has said that they geared it to plug the gaps in internet security of most OS packages.
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  • EdConw
    Much Ado About Nothing right now until the rubber (code) hits the road, so to speak. Chrome OS based on Linux and the Open Source Community? Day Late and Dollar short Google Heads. Google just playing the Hype Cycle and taking a page out of the Microsoft FUD play book. Like with all Microsoft OS’s, I will wait for SP2 on any Chrome OS, if it gets that far. Maybe if it pushes prices down and gets Microsoft to get the bloat out of 7 and truly give us a lean and mean browser based OS or gets Apple to be more open with their OS, then great. Don’t bet the farm on better security coming out of the open source world either-the bad guys live in that community too.
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  • mschlack
    LorenaK, don't get me wrong. I like Chrome the browser (it's actually my first choice as tong as the site allows, which isn't universally true) and I like that Google has pushed the envelope on browser-based apps. But I have to agree with EdConw, seeing is believing. Also, looking at the experience of Linux, how do you develop an unfunded OS? Especially a free one? That remains to be seen, even with Google's huge ad revenues, will they really plow the resources into it that are needed to do maintenance (read: security patches)? Does Google really understand the needs of corporate IT any better than Microsoft? People who have talked to them about their cloud offerings say "not so much." So it's nice to have someone keeping Microsoft honest, but I remain skeptical.
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  • Ruthinator
    New application delivery options and the alternative architectures brought to the fore as a result provide unprecedented opportunities for IT orgs to reduce server and eco footprint. THAT is the "game changer".
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  • Firewalker96
    The European Union is all over Microsoft for bundling a browser with it's OS, so what chance does Google have being able to do it? Or will I be able to install IE or Firefox on the Chrome OS? Also, Google is out to make money. If they offer an OS for free, chances are the OS will be filled with Ads and links for them to make money off of. Also, if it's a web browser OS, does that mean I'll always have to be connected to the Internet for me to do anything? With all my data on a Google server somewhere?
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  • Mohdfarid914
    IMHO, this is a remarkable idea with a potentially significant impact to the general PC users. I believe stability will not be an issue as it will be running on top of a Linux kernel. While the process of migrating from the usual familiarities of stand-alone executable apps to a browser-based interface system and applications will be a big leap and collaboration between the existing app with Google apps will be with some complexities; but as a fresh OS, it will be definitely something to welcome and look forward to. Though, I have little doubt that Chrome OS will be less preferred in corporate organisations.
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