Google Chrome OS

In my last blog post I outlined a design concept for a "graphical shell for the web", a replacement for a desktop environment for devices dedicated to browsing the web. On Tuesday Google announced  the "Google Chrome OS" project which appears to be an implementation of a very similar idea.

Google says that Chrome OS will be "an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks" and is their attempt to "re-think what operating systems should be", with a focus on "speed, simplicity and security". Chrome OS will essentially be Google Chrome running on a Linux kernel.

After the announcement several people contacted me with messages along the lines of "have you heard about this? It sounds like what you've been banging on about for years!". I agree, and I think this is a significant development in the transition from applications installed on a desktop PC to services provided over the web.

I'm eager to see what the Chrome OS user interface will look like, the blog post mentions a new windowing system and I hope the UI doesn't resemble a desktop environment. Ideally it would be as simple as possible with only the minimal user interface elements required for browsing the web and operating the host device.

I think that devices based on this OS will have a range of benefits over the traditional Personal Computer:

  • Reliability – Solid state devices like netbooks and nettops have no moving parts and with a solid Linux-based OS could be exceptionally reliable.
  • Maintenance -With a significantly reduced complexity on the client-side software stack and potentially automatic updates, maintenance will be greatly reduced.
  • Security – With a new security model and a UI designed only for using the web, the risk of malicious software or malicious unauthorised use could be greatly reduced.
  • Environmental impact – Netbook and nettop computers tend to have a much lower power consumption than traditional PCs. The power usage of computing shifts to the "cloud", with a focus on efficiency and the use of renewable energy in centralised data centres.
  • Cost – Low cost hardware, no software license costs and low power consumption, with no vendor lock-in.

I look forward to hearing more about the Google Chrome OS and the devices it will run on.