Google has pre-announced the “Google Chrome OS”. It’s intended as a lightweight operating system built primarily for hosting a browser.
The post is short on specifics, mostly mentioning goals. I think it sounds very attractive — I only write web apps these days and know very few people who don’t. But will it get traction?
I think out of the gate, it will be slow going. After all, if you (as a user) want to live on the web, you have that ability now. You just fire up a web browser, be it on a laptop or a mobile phone.
The question is whether the Chrome netbook adds to the number of devices you carry. In other words, will it be enough for a person to abandon their laptop on, say, a business trip?
I fear that perhaps Chrome OS serves an undefined middle ground. If you want business-class computing, you’ll carry a laptop. If you want super portability, you’ll carry an iPhone/Android/Blackberry. In both cases, you have everything that Chrome would do, plus all the other capabilities of those devices.
Its resource-lightness is attractive — Chrome netbooks will probably boast impressive battery life and low cost.
But by stripping out much of the Linux stack to focus on the browser, Chrome OS will likely preclude certain killer apps like voice-over-IP (eg Skype) and the current wave of robust Twitter clients (eg Tweetdeck). The iPhone’s momentum is being fueled by its native, non-browser apps.
I’d like to see how Chrome handles user-generated media too. Will it have a photo library or video editing? It certainly could. But then it starts to look like a regular, resource-intensive OS. Remember, Windows 7 and Mac OS X Snow Leopard are both focusing on performance, battery life and boot time.
Here’s a thought: maybe this is the cafe/conference computer. If you are out and around, keeping an eye on email, and blogging/twittering, this might be the solution. If you know that your “real” computer is back at the apartment/hotel, you might be willing to step out for a few hours with this one.
It’s a worthwhile experiment. I think it remains to be seen who it’s for.