The Internet has become a central part of
the computer experience. Before the Web
caught fire in the late 1990s, home
computing was largely a singular
experience. Computer users created
documents on a PC and saved those files to a
hard or floppy disk, and maybe worked
within a local area network at the office. File
sharing usually meant walking a disk to
These days, computing is a Web-centric
experience, and you perform many of your
Internet tasks through software called a Web
browser. That browser, which may be a
program such as Firefox or Internet
Explorer, helps you retrieve information from
the Internet multiple times per day, integrate
it with other online documents and share data
galore with people all over the planet. Google
is trying to reshape the computer experience
by using its understanding of the Web to
create the new Chrome operating system
Traditional operating systems, such as
Windows, require a lot of hard drive space and
demand some work on your part. You have to
install the programs you want
individually, manage OS and security updates
and manage device drivers, too.
Google's Chrome OS aims to overhaul that
paradigm. With Chrome, the browser actually
is the OS -- in this case, the Chrome OS builds
on the Google browser of the same name. In
total, the Chrome OS is built on an
open-source version of Linux and integrated
with the Chrome browser, a simple media
player...and that's it.
Google embraced the concept of an ultra-simple, Web-centric
OS in large part due to the huge recent success of netbooks.
Netbooks are small laptop computers that are designed to let
users access the Web, and not much more; they're inexpensive
and feature-limited hardware, and they aren't built for high-
powered applications like Photoshop, for example.
Unlike Windows, Chrome won't be available as a download.
It'll be pre-installed by netbook manufacturers who adhere to
Google's hardware specifications. Chrome is designed to run
best on solid-state storage systems as opposed to traditional
spinning hard drives, in part because solid-state drives are
less prone to failure, but also because they're less spacious --
remember, Google wants you to store your data online. And
because the OS uses Web-based applications, you don't need
local storage for software, either.
It's no accident that Google stresses the online aspects
of Chrome. The entire Chrome project revolves around
the cloud computing model. That fancy term simply
means that all of your data and applications are stored
online, in the "cloud," so that you can access them from
any computer, anywhere.
The company says this model will help it develop a better
overall OS experience and focus on building an OS with
improved speed, security and simplicity. By hacking out
all of the non-Web related functions of a traditional
OS, Google indicates these goals should be easier to
achieve. And the company isn't doing the design work
alone. Because this is an open-source project (under the
name Chromium OS), Google gets feedback from savvy
software developers all over the world.
It's important to remember that Google doesn't intend
for Chrome OS to be your primary computer's operating
system. Instead, the company sees a Chrome OS netbook
as a secondary computer that you use once you're done
with the heavy-duty applications you use on a more
powerful office computer.
Like most Google products, Chrome OS is free. That
fact, along with the power of Google's marketing and
distribution, should grab your attention. Keep reading to
see how Chrome might alter the landscape of computing
as you know it.