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Chrome Browser or Operating System?

Sep 25th, 2009 | By | Category: Technology

chrome192x40Netbooks powered with the Atom processor have changed how Google thinks about the Android Operating System they spent millions developing. Android was designed from the beginning to work across a variety of devices from phones to set-top boxes to netbooks. I got an Android phone as soon as they hit the market because, after years of selling telecom software and SS7 protocol stacks, I wanted to see if they could really re-write telcom software in linux. They did. It is swell. Plus, their voice-over-IP (VOIP) Google Voice is the coolest thing since Blackberrys. I love getting my phone messages as e-mails with a mpeg attached. Google Voice even places long-distance calls from my desk phone. But enough about Android.

I really wanted a thin client for PowerPoint presentations on the road, but I don’t foresee building websites from a hotel room in Denver. I got an OLPC XO because it was the first one out, but the SUGAR operating system baffled me. Then I got an Asus, but their custom linux wouldn’t update and I sent it back with an RMA number. Then I got an Acer Aspire One (AA1) with Windows XP and an Atom processor and got into the Chrome game.

Google wrote a whole Chrome Book, well, comic-style book that explains the technology effectively. The term “chrome” refers to all the stuff displayed on the screen that ISN’T the web page. You know, like the buttons, the URL, the search box, etc. This is not a problem on the big honkin’ screens I use for web design, but on the teeny-weeny netbook screen, real estate is at a premium. And Google Chrome has the least “chrome,” giving me the most web page for the money. The Google Chrome browser is clearly designed for netbooks.

We all kinda hoped that Android would work great on netbooks but, well, netbooks are not Class 5 switches. As fabulous as Android is, trying to force a lightweight, efficient telecom stack to ALSO work as a personal computer is like… well, trying to make a Formula One racer carry cargo.

Google decided to create Chrome OS as a new project, separate from Android. The Chrome Operating System, running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel, is being created for people who spend most of their time on the web, and is being designed to power computers ranging from small netbooks to full-size desktop systems. Both Google Chrome OS and Android are linux, and there are areas where they overlap, but Google funded the Chrome OS project separately because they believe it will drive innovation for the benefit of everyone, including Google.

Google is working with several netbook manufacturers using both x86 as well as ARM chips, with an eye to providing software for computers that will do their computing in “the cloud.” That is, use the lightweight netbooks to access programs that live on Google’s servers and using Google Docs and similar services to create business documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

A friend recently asked me which netbook to buy and I suggested that if she can wait a few months, she can get a dual-boot system that will offer EITHER Windows or Chrome OS in the same machine. That would give her maximum flexibility to create documents when she is on the road. Her work would live BOTH on her machine and in her Google Docs account or elsewhere on line, giving her an automatic backup system. I think this is the wave of the future. What do you think? Let me know your thoughts in a comment…

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  1. Having just spent the weekend at a conference with a friend who had her Acer netbook with her, and me having my big honkin’ notebook, I am convinced that I need a light and useful netbook to carry around.

    My friend said that she plugs her netbook into a full sized keyboard, mouse and screen and uses it for her computing, which is mostly word processing.

    I no longer want to get strong hauling my laptop around. Seems like time for me to lighten up, and maybe Chrome is the answer. How long do I have to wait?

  2. Acer just announced an Android product, but it is a cellphone, not a netbook. The NYTimes wrote “The Incredible Shrinking Operating System” describing Chrome, .Net, Ruby on Rails, Java and Django. Microsoft is offering services like Azure, its ooperating system for cloud computing, and an online Business Productivity Suite that they offer “free” for 30 days or you can Buy It Now but you have to click on the button before you know what it costs (gr-r-r-r, I HATE that!).

    Did you know that nVidia, the company that makes those great graphics cards, has developed a system that Intel fears? And the ARM chips are the talk of the developers. So much jazzy stuff to choose from!

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