First of all, I would like to express my sincere thanks to Google on sending me the Cr-48 Chrome netbook as a christmas gift :). Being an open-source activist, I do things without expecting much in return so, this comes as a big surprise. There are very less companies out there who genuinely support open-source movement & innovations and one among them is undoubtedly Google. After playing around with this new toy for a while, I think I am ready to write a review or express my viewpoints on this Chrome OS stuff. I am sure you must have come across fancy buzzwords like Cloud Computing, SaaS (Software As A Service), HTML5, Web OS etc. But, I’ll try as much as I can to not use those words, instead use more common & simple terminologies.
To begin with, if you think Chrome OS is going to rule this world, I think you are wrong and in the same token, if you think it is going to vanish out of thin air, I think you are probably wrong as well. I have been following the Chrome OS technology & trend ever since Google announced it to public last year. If I remember it correctly,Chrome OS launch event was one of the highly watched technical video during that time. I think you can probably guess the curiosity & anticipation from tech world on what Chrome OS is going to offer.
So, what this whole Chrome OS is all about? In a nutshell, its nothing but a browser. Then, what’s all that fuss if it is just a browser? Well, I think it is because most of the users are using just that most of the time. And also, most of the stuff we do today using computers are mostly online. If you don’t agree with that statement, you probably not going to be a Chrome OS user ever. In my opinion, that is a very valid statement in today’s world of web & social media breakthrough. And, that is what google is “banking on” for building this operation system.
OK I get it, it’s a browser operating system and why do I need one if I already have a chrome or some other browser in my laptop, desktop or mobile? Well, that’s where the crux to the matter is and that is the million or may be billion dollar question, which will decide the future of Chrome OS in general. I hope google will put all their efforts convincing the prospective users by answering this question.
Let’s look in the usage of this operation system from multiple angles. There is no doubt, it’s a niche operating system. Who can use it apart from the college and school students who like to spend all their time on Facebook, Google, Twitter, Gmail, Youtube etc. Just kidding I think its a cliche to say that, but it’s a close enough portrayal of almost everyone who use computers/laptops & spend time online these days. Who else apart from a typical personal netbook users can use this OS? Well, if you been to any public library lately, you may have seen computers which you can use to access internet or search stuff from the library catalog. That would be one of the perfect place for Chrome OS. Because, all you need is a PC/Notebook/Netbook, browser and internet connectivity. And, that is exactly what Chrome OS is for. I think the same argument applies to places like Educational institutions, Airport internet kiosks or flight/public transportation seats, Government organizations, interactive display consoles (like in museums, theme parks), Ticket checkin Kiosks etc.
Alright, it’s good for public internet consoles, how about as a corporate/business netbooks? The answer is yes & no. Let’s look in “yes” first. Chrome OS as a corporate netbook would be suitable for Google Apps suite, which means, GMail(for business account), Google docs, Google Calendar, Google Maps etc. all accessed thro this netbook. So, who cannot use it? Well anyone like myself, who is in the business of making and managing software cannot use it very much. The reason is, software development/management tools & IDE’s are not yet totally web based. I am sure we will be there at some point. But, not at this moment. So, I can only use Chrome OS for testing and doing non-software developer based stuffs
Who is competiting with Chrome OS? Is it Apple’s iPad, HP’s WebOS, Jolicloud or something like Ubuntu’s Netbook?. They may be competing with it in some respect, but to me the biggest competitor is none other than Google’s own mobile/tablet based operating system Android. If you think about it, Android already comes with Chrome browser(without extensions) so, android can be argued as a superset of Chrome OS, which also comes with cool native apps on top of browser. So, its logical to think you get more by buying Android tablet rather than a Chrome OS netbook. I am gonna leave that up to you to decide what’s best for you
Right from it’s inception Google knew there is a overlap between Chrome OS & Android. So, I hope they must have done enough market reasearch already and would come up with best selling points that clearly separates Android & Chrome OS. Or, maybe we will eventually see Chrome OS merged or spinned to something like this in the future…
Android + Chrome = Androme or Chromdroid
One important thing I want to stress here is use of Chrome OS in the world of “browser incompatibilities”. Yes, chrome is taking over lot of browser market share and more & more websites are being built on web standard compliance these days but, it’s still a fair statement to say that there are websites out there which work better if not exclusive to certain browsers. So, How is Chrome OS going to tackle that? It cannot bundle IE because Chrome OS is a linux based OS. May be it can come with Firefox, not sure? This issue is definitely going to be a tough sell.