>> Sunday, November 22, 2009
2009 will probably be remembered for major software upgrades, be it the much hyped Windows 7 launch, or the Office 2010 Beta, there's been something in it for everyone. But another area that has really taken off over the past year has been Cloud Computing (very simply put, that's living and doing most of your work online). And that's exactly what Google was hoping to exploit when they announced their Chrome OS earlier this year.
Chrome OS is going to be Google's answer to the large number of Netbooks (that's ultra-portable, low-spec laptops for the uninitiated) that are proliferating in the market. From the looks of the technical preview, which Google provided this Thursday, Chrome OS is going to be an exciting, if not outrageously awesome product. In fact, if the early response to Chrome OS is taken as a yardstick, Microsoft has a lot on its plate regarding its Netbook offerings (especially in light of the unexpected poor performance of Windows 7 on Netbooks).
What's under the hood, you ask? Well, here goes.
- The Interface: As largely speculated, the Chrome browser is going to be used as the main interface, be it for traversing the file system, or for connecting to web-apps.
- Kernel: Chrome OS will be using the Linux kernel at its heart. However, the kernel is expected to have support for a limited set of hardware initially, with support for other hardware expected as it evolves.
- Application Support: Chrome OS wants you to forget your local hard disk. Like I said, it's about the Cloud, baby! Google's own webapps (namely GMail, Calendar, Reader, Wave, etc.) will be supported out of the box. Other webapps, which want to be part of Chrome OS, will be allowed to install their links onto the OS. The trusty old hard disk will probably only be used as a temporary storage, so that if you ever lose connectivity, you have your information safe. Once back online, the apps will sync again.
- Speed: Here's the verdict. It's BLAZING fast. In the preview, Google claims a cold boot time of 7 seconds (though exact specifics of the test machine weren't made public).
- Eye-Candy: Like almost all Google products, Chrome will adopt the minimalist look.
Google also said that the Chrome OS will be released sometime in 2010. However, it is expected to be a tightly coupled OS (meaning, it will run only with certain hardware), and hence probably won't be available as a download. Google intends to provide minimum hardware specs to manufacturers for the same reason. Developers have been kept interested as the Chrome OS project has now been released as the open-source Chromium OS project.
So what's in it for the consumer?
For starters, Netbook prices are going to go down. This is because most notebooks today run Windows as their primary (and probably only OS). What this means is that manufacturers charge the end-user a licensing fee for their copy of Windows. Chrome OS is going to be open source and hence the end-user is going to be spared from huge licensing fees.
Secondly, very simply, another OS implies more choice. I mean just how long can you keep on staring at the blue XP taskbar?
Thirdly, it's going to help users seamlessly migrate to the Cloud. When you see that all it takes for you to get online is a 7-second boot time, you know what I mean.
Do I see you eagerly rubbing your palms to get some Chrome OS goodness between them? In that case, all you need to do to get down and dirty is head over to gdgt.com and download the VMWare Image they've provided. You will need VMWare running on your Windows/Linux/Mac machine. After getting it up and running, all you need to do is sign-in using your Google Account Credentials.