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Google Chrome OS Source Code Released

Posted by | Posted in Geek Stuff, Technology | Posted on 20-11-2009

“…and slowly, and surely, they drew their plans against us.”

It always seems like I blog on a Friday. Maybe that’s because people are winding down for the week and preparing for the work they’ll have to do come Monday, or maybe everyone’s just excited about the weekend. I know I am, but not for any particular reason.

OK, so the best geek-related news today (or this week, in fact) is that Google has finally released the source code for it’s new operating system – Chrome OS. We’ve known it’s been in the works for a while, and although I was fairly interested in what it would be like, I hadn’t paid a great deal of attention to it… until now.

I have to say, it sounds pretty awesome. I’m slightly concerned at the whole “internet-must-be-enabled-for-this-thing-to-work” deal, but other than that, I can’t wait to try it out.

Basically, Chrome OS is a new web-based operating system from Google that is essentially a glorified web browser capable of running your computer in the same way that Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, or Linux does. Primarily (at least to start with) it’s being designed for laptops and netbooks, and it’s biggest noticeable feature is that nearly everything that runs on a Chrome-based machine will be “on the web”. So storing your files, watching videos, or playing games will all be done via online services. As you probably know, Google offers far more than just web-based searching. An online office suite, web-based emails, calendars, web building tools, online checkouts and plenty of other services are offered by Google for free, and they will no doubt be incorporated into Chrome OS. There are many other web-based services offered by many other companies as well, but I imagine Chrome OS will run seamlessly with those also. After all, they’re only web applications, which Chrome OS is designed for.

But Chrome OS will also be able to run the normal pieces of hardware, such as bluetooth adapters, USB memory sticks and external hard drives. The system will be able to run any piece of hardware in much the same way as a traditional OS, as long as Chrome OS has the driver software for it (again, like traditional OS’s).

As the OS needs to be connected to the internet to work properly, it means that it will have a constant net connection with which to download frequent updates; once a day, in fact. This will ensure that the OS is as up-to-date as possible. It also means that web-based apps will have access to the hardware on your PC. Or to put it in a less hacker-esque way, online games and apps will be able to utilise multiple-core CPUs, high-end graphics cards, and other fancy hardware.

Although it’s predominantly a web-based OS that needs the web in order to function properly, it’ll still have limited offline usability as well. For instance, you’ll be able to store music and film files locally for you to watch/listen to while on long journeys. And for thos people who’d rather not have Chrome OS as their operating system, they might be happy to know that many of the extra features that Chrome OS has will be available in future versions of the Chrome web browser.

So what are the downsides? Well the main one is the competition. Although Chrome OS isn’t aimed at your Joe Average user, there’ll still be stiff competition from Windows 7, and especially, Linux. Many of the people who are liekly to try Chrome OS are the sort of people who are fairly familiar with Linux and the advantages it has over Windows. So if Chrome OS doesn’t do everything Linux does, with the same (if not more) ease of use, then Google will be doing well to drag people away from other OS’s.

And the thought that Chrome OS won’t be available for general download (you can only get it pre-installed on a netbook) will put some people off. That is, of course, unless you download the source code and compile it yourself.

As I mentioned before, the fact that the OS needs an always-on net connection can be a bit of a pain in the arse, but these days anyone who has heard of Chrome OS will have a decent net connection. The trouble lies with the speed of that net connection. In many places, including the US and UK, the upload speeds of most broadband connections are relatively poor in comparison to the download speeds. And if the OS will be storing all of our files, including music and large high-quality image files, for example, then many people’s net connections simply wont be able to cope with the constant uploading.

Another potential downfall is the quality of online apps in relation to their offline counterparts. Take Photoshop, for example. Photoshop is an industry-standard image editing tool, and although it’s got Photoshop.com as it’s online counterpart, the online version doesn’t offer the same features as the offline version. So will people prefer to use the online or offline version? The smart money is with the offline apps.

I think Google are certainly onto something when it comes to making the first web-based OS. Offline apps have been moving to the cloud for a while now, and so it’s only a matter of time before everything goes online 100%. And while I think it’s people like Google who are the pioneers of new technologies, and are the ones responsible for moving technology forward, I think it might be a little too early to expect widespread adoption just now.

Still, I’m looking forward to what they’ve got in store.

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