Chrome OS

I’ve just finished watching the live Google webcast announcing Google Chrome OS. It wasn’t really a launch – they say they’re still a year away from anything being commercially available – but it was packed with info and a live demonstration of what we should expect to see when it is finally released into the wild next year. It wasn’t all smoke and mirrors: one of the biggest announcements was that they’ve completely opened up the source – you can access the same repository as Google’s developers at http://src.chromium.org/.

You can read more about the announcement here but some points that were interesting to me were:

  • The browser IS the operating system: there are no installed apps, in fact no installations whatsoever. It’s just a browser – basically the same Chrome browser 40 million people are already using as their primary way to surf the web (according to Google). So obviously that means no MS Office, though it was funny to see them demo opening an Excel file into Windows Live – am pretty sure Microsoft aren’t building an online version of Office for Google’s benefit but it was a pretty nifty demo!
  • It’s designed to be fast, simple & secure – just like Chrome.
  • It’s designed & built for NetBooks only – Chrome OS doesn’t have drivers per se, will not run on any old laptop & it only works with solid-state hard drives. There is a certain level of device support – I think this is the area where there is still a lot of details left to tease out.
  • Applications live on the web (as I said above – there are no installed apps, not even apps for Google Android will run on Chrome). But any application already on the web can be used immediately so Xero is exactly the type of application Chrome OS has been built for.
  • Basic plugin support for ubiquitous formats like PDF & Flash are already supported (this was a big question mark for me & was answered in the first few minutes of their demo). I was kinda hoping that Chrome OS would be completely HTML5 only & therefore not require any plugins – however I guess YouTube is one of their biggest sites so without rebuilding YouTube to be plugin free they didn’t have much of a choice.

The other big announcement that caught my eye was actually right at the start of the event – Chrome for Mac will be ready by the end of the year & is great news for those of us that live in complex web applications like Xero on a daily basis.

So Chrome OS has had it’s first unveiling & I’m sure every detail will be hotly debated (probably for the next year!). In the meantime I think I’ll go download the source code, build it & run it in a VM to see what it can do.

5 Comments

stuartm
November 20, 2009 at 9:42 am

Looks interesting, and just in case you didn’t know, YouTube have already started experimenting with HTML5: http://www.youtube.com/html5

Craig Walker
November 20, 2009 at 9:54 am

Yes – when I saw the demo of the HTML5 YouTube at Google I/O earlier this year I really thought it was going to be a game-changer – yet it hasn’t gone any further. Does the web need plugins? Right now there are sites I use that do required plugins – HTML5 should change that but without something major such as a fully HTML5 native YouTube it won’t happen. Lack of support on the iPhone for Flash has definitely made me think about the sites I use day-to-day & I did wonder if Google would go the same route with Chrome OS but I guess the user experience & user requirements have trumped ideology (which is actually a good thing).

Actually due to the iPhone’s “limitations” Apple.com have been the first to really innovate around this stuff: go to http://www.apple.com/imac/ in an HTML5 compliant browser (Safari/Chrome will do) and watch the iMac video. This is actually running using HTML5’s video tag – inspect the element on the video to see the gorgeousness of non-plugin video.

Craig

Berend de Boer
November 20, 2009 at 10:41 am

Hmm, find a Linux machine that displays it. I suppose one needs to install some codecs or whatever to make it work.

Nathan Li
November 20, 2009 at 2:31 pm

Xero is going to kill it’s competitors who is still emphasizing traditional desktop accounting software. Imagine the Xero icon shows up in the Chrome OS App Menu, how cool would that be! Way to go!

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