Google ChromeOS: I just don't get it

Google Chrome OS attracted a huge amount of attention and continues to do so. As you may know it is a Linux-based operating system developed largely by Google and which will be released in about a year.

It is touted as the next Next Big Thing and, like many Google products, it will apparently solve world hunger, water shortages, bring about world peace and make it so much easier to do stuff. As things stand now, the OS is designed to run on fairly specific hardware (SSD and not traditional hard drives, for example) and its apps are really Web apps so it seems that you either need to be online or using Web apps that support some sort of offline functionality. Presumably Google will have updated its apps to support HTML 5 offline capability by the time the OS ships or the OS will have Gears support.

A ChromeOS powered device will be light, fast and will be geared for the Web-based stuff many of us do all day without needing a larger device. You could (and probably would) use ChromeOS on a netbook or something smaller and lighter than your usual laptop. All this is great and mobile workers are celebrating but I just wonder why this is so much better than an OS like Ubuntu Netbook Remix.

ChromeOS is basically the Chrome browser as an OS. Google has boasted that there are so many apps available for ChromeOS already because ChromeOS runs Web apps. Well, so does pretty much any modern browser and given that Chrome (the browser) is available on Linux, why not run Ubuntu on your netbook instead? You have all the benefits of the Web apps through Chrome or Firefox and you have the added ability to use installed apps that don’t require you to be online to use them effectively. You could choose between Google Docs or OpenOffice/Abiword/etc. When it comes to IM, you have a number of options available on Ubuntu whereas you are limited to Google Talk or a Web-based alternative on ChromeOS (did I mention apps aren’t really intended to be installed on ChromeOS devices, as I understand it?).

It is possible that Google will optimise its apps for ChromeOS with the result that ChromeOS users will have certain additional functionality or an improved experience but short of that sort of benefit (ok, and a 7 second load time for ChromeOS … does a few extra seconds or a minute or so make that much difference if you are running an Ubuntu netbook?), I think users are better off using a netbook running Ubuntu or even Windows 7 for a little extra.

There are more benefits to using Ubuntu (I’m going to focus on Ubuntu but Windows 7 probably has similar benefits) on your netbook instead of ChromeOS. For one thing I am not sure that a ChromeOS will be able to support much media on the device running it. I haven’t seen a media application which you can use to play some music you transfer or download to the device. I could be wrong. What I do know is that there are a number of media applications in Ubuntu. I also recently heard that Ubuntu users are going to be able to buy music from Rhythmbox on their Ubuntu machines a little like iTunes or something similar.

Ubuntu users have more flexibility with their hardware requirements and a pretty broad selection of applications, both installed and Web-based. There are probably a number of other benefits I just haven’t thought of yet …

Am I just missing something significant here?

Update: Take a look at this post on JK on the Run titled “What ChromeOS Looks Like as a Primary Operating System” to get an idea what the OS will look like when it releases next year. The video is worth watching!




  1. A case for Firefox | Paul Jaco avatar

    […] when it comes to Google and its products. We’ve seen it with hype over Chrome OS (which I regard as very limited), Google Docs (in the context of it being a Microsoft Office killer), Gmail and more. In some cases […]

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