Thoughts on Google Chrome OS

chromeThe big news this week, of course, is that Google is developing its own Operating System dubbed Chrome OS. Cue the headlines about the search giant, once again, taking aim at Microsoft. And of course, on one level that’s absolutely correct. Just like any other newly launched OS needs to take market share away from Redmond in order to succeed. But it won’t be easy.

See also: Linux on a Netbook? Intel thinks its all about the User Interface

While Google says it wants to build an OS from the ground up in order to make it easier for users to get on the web and utilize web-based applications – and view more Google ads – managing user expectations will likely be the bigger challenge. For all the technical hurdles that Google will undoubtedly overcome – faster boot up times, greater security, support for next gen web standards (HTML 5 etc.) – weaning users off of Windows will be no easy task. The failure of existing Linux distros to become the defacto OS for Netbooks, despite getting a head start and backing from OEMs, doesn’t bode well for Chrome’s chances unless Google is able to redefine not just the OS but what users expect from their PCs.

See also: Android’s biggest Netbook challenge (Hint: Windows)

Sure, I’d be happy buying a Netbook or Mobile Internet Device (MID), for Chrome OS will sensibly run on ARM-based chips not just Intel/AMD, knowing full well its purpose and limitations. I’m also, unlike 90+ % of the PC population, not emotionally or habitually tied to the Windows brand. But explaining to mass users why their iPod, printer, 3G dongle or whatever, doesn’t work properly on Chrome OS or why they can’t install Office or their favorite IM client, or simply why the UI looks a bit different, will be a hard sell. Google says it’s committed to web-based applications running on Chrome OS but it will inevitably be forced into supporting binary installations and/or to ship its own default ‘native’ apps for things like managing a music library/iPod syncing and multiple device drivers, if it’s to have any chance of winning over consumers.

That sounds a lot less like building an OS as a gateway to the web and more like building a traditional – kitchen sink an all – OS afterall.


last100 is edited by Steve O'Hear. Aside from founding last100, Steve is co-founder and CEO of Beepl and a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including TechCrunch, The Guardian, ZDNet, ReadWriteWeb and Macworld, and also wrote and directed the Silicon Valley documentary, In Search of the Valley. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

3 Responses to “Thoughts on Google Chrome OS”

  1. adam_hartung says:

    That Google would go after this new business surprises only those that don't understand Google. Industrial-era thinkers believe you should “stick to your focus”. Like GM. But Google knows that in an information economy if you don't keep moving into new markets with new technologies looking for more revenues you won't survive. Read more at

  2. Dave Zatz says:

    Which revenues do you refer to? It's always been Adsense/Adwords. Looks like GM to me, sticking to their focus. đŸ˜‰

    I would have rather seen them bolster Android from a branding perspective over “Chrome OS”. Will be interesting to see how this plays out. Do we need more OSes? Especially new, immature ones?

  3. Fanfoot says:

    Agreed. I too would be happy, mostly, with just running a web browser most of the time. And I'm sure Chrome would be fine, if I generally prefer Firefox.

    But the web browser isn't the only thing that needs building.

    What about when I want to print something? Will there be printer drivers for all those printers out there that only work with Windows PCs?

    What about 3G? Will we have to buy netbooks with the drivers for the 3G cards preloaded and never go near a USB 3G modem? Or will there be drivers and applications for all those Verizon/T-Mobile/Sprint/AT&T USB modems for Chrome OS?

    What about media playback? I assume Hulu and will work, via Flash and Move support. But what about DRM-infected stuff like iTunes rentals? I'm guessing the answer is you can't use it for that.

    What about pulling pictures off your camera? Will there be drivers for that? What about integrating with the EyeFi or whatever? Or how about those hot new digital video cameras? Or my iPhone? Will it be able to integrate with any of those and allow me to save the stuff locally when I need to, edit it, and post it?

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