A 7-second boot time until the login prompt. Would you like that? I would. “We want Google Chrome OS to be blazingly fast… to boot up like a TV,” promised Sundar Pichai, VP of Product Management for Google.
Don’t Worry: “Chrome OS is a totally rethought computer that will let you focus on the internet, so you can stop worrying about your computer,” according to the promotional video from Google. Google’s Chrome OS is based on Linux and the company’s Chrome browser. The entire system is web-based and runs within the Chrome browser. Even the USB contents show up in a browser tab. Notepad? That would be handled by Google’s Docs. Web apps include Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Hulu, Google Talk, etc. Google is very committed to Flash and will make use of hardware acceleration.Â
Cloud Computing: Everything (all data) lives in the cloud. The Chrome OS is for people who primarily use the web and not for everyone. Target launch date is end of next year. Between now and the launch date there will be many UI changes according to Google. You will see the first Chrome OS-based netbooks in late 2010 according to Pichai. Google is currently working with a computer manufacturer to define specifications for small and large netbooks. Because all data is in the cloud you don’t have to worry about installing applications, patching updates, backing up data, viruses, etc. If you trust Google, the company will monitor to prevent malicious code in Chrome OS web apps.
Application Tabs: To the very left of the Chrome OS are “Application Tabs” that helps to bookmark tabs of your favorite apps. There is also an “App Menu” that brings up a bunch of app icons. There are some apps that are ‘Panels’ that are persistent lightweight windows and some examples are chat, notepad, music. The Panels can be dragged to the sides. With the portability of a netbook combined with Chrome OS, Google expects the netbook to be a all-purpose portable device. One thing is to read books. Flash-based YouTube movies were shown and worked quite well. Google Docs takes care of PDF files.
External Storage: When you double-click an Excel file that’s stored on an USB stick, Windows Live runs. When you plug in Motorola’s DROID, Chrome OS shows it as an USB storage device with pictures and videos. A Panel pops up and media can be shown and played.
SSD: Chrome OS does not work with standard hard drives, but SSDs and other non-volatile flash memory will do. Starting right now I expect 1.8-inch and 2.5-inch hard drive manufacturers to be rapidly migrating from hard drives to SSDs. This transition has been slowly happening for some time but due to the high price of SSDs relative to hard drives adoption has been slow. With more resources poured to manufacturing SSDs with the expectation of explosive demand thanks to Chrome OS we should see SSD prices come down rapidly next year. Although all data is in the cloud, I expect users of Chrome OS-based netbooks and other portable devices to want a local copy and that would require a significant amount of storage space. But because nothing is stored locally, in the event of your Chrome OS-based netbook being lost or stolen, you don’t have to worry about your data. Losing your hardware is one thing; losing your data is catastrophe. Of course the question we will all have to ask is, “Do I trust Google with all my data?”
Open Source: CPU support includes x86 and ARM (currently working on ARM support). During Google’s presentation today, Chrome OS was running on what looked like an ordinary ASUS Eee PC netbook. The entire Chrome OS is completely open-source. “As of today, the code will be fully open, which means Google developers will be working on the same tree as open developers. Every capability you want today, in the future it will be written as a web application,” said Pichai.
Communication vs. Creation: Chrome OS-based netbooks are primarily a data consumption and communications device. Regular notebook PCs and desktop PCs will still be required to create the content that these netbook users will consume: complex spreadsheets, presentations, long documents, video, audio, Flash applications, websites, etc. Of course simpler spreadsheets and documents can be created with Google Docs. “We expect this to be a companion device. The goal of this device is for a delightful experience for you to be on the web.” This makes sense somewhat. When we are on-the-go the primary duties of our portable computing devices including full-on notebook PCs are communication. Sure there are mobile bloggers, videographers, etc. but the majority of us use our portable tools to communicate. And Google wants you to be using a Chrome OS-based netbook to do that. You can find more videos on “The Google Chrome Channel” on YouTube.