Google’s Chrome OS asks just one simple question of its prospective users; do I really need a desktop space on my computer? According to Google, the answer to that question is no; you just need a feature rich web browser that can do everything that your desktop and applications can do, and do them much faster.
Google are of the belief that the majority of PC users do everything they need their PCs for within a web browser, or if they can’t right now, they at least could with Chrome OS. Which is handy for them, as time on the web equates to money in the Google coffers.
First announced in July, more and more details of Google’s OS are starting to trickle through. Here are the main points you need to know about Chrome OS:
Chrome is totally web based:
A user’s time on the web gets the Google cash registers ringing, so it’s no surprise that the OS encourages you to be connected to the internet. All applications are web based, with very little data stored locally on the PC, meaning that you can access anything you save from anywhere in the world via cloud storage. By being web based, Google hope to circumnavigate the hassle of managing and updating programs, with the OS handling all of this in the background.
Chrome should be super-secure:
Google’s Chrome OS trusts no-one, not even its own applications. Every app runs within a “security sandbox”, protecting you from malware and viruses. On top of this, each time you restart your computer, Chrome will check its code to hunt down any unwelcome guests, hopefully fixing any problems before the system has even booted up.
Chrome is fast. Really fast:
If you’ve used Google’s Chrome web browser, you’ll likely have been impressed with its speed. The Chrome OS wants you to be browsing the web within ten seconds of pushing your computer’s “On” button. It’s optimising every operation and removing all unnecessary processes to make this possible.
It’s free to use:
Chrome won’t cost you a penny, so it appears that the information they gather from your use with the OS will be very valuable to advertisers looking to target their campaigns with pinpoint accuracy. The OS will be open source for its users too, meaning anyone can have a go at tinkering with what’s on offer.
It will be headed to netbooks first:
That may be the case, but Google’s seven-year plan for the OS has them hoping to be a dominant force on desktops and laptops not long afterwards. Check out a demo of the Chrome OS here.
It’s an ambitious project by Google. The desktop and local storage are pretty much synonymous with what many PC owners still understand as computing, and while Google are making brave steps to address the undeniable shift towards an increasingly online world, getting users to give up their familiar desktop may take some convincing.
While the Chrome OS looks set to be pretty well protected when it comes to PC security, perhaps its users should be more concerned with privacy. Certainly, Google have been instrumental in the growth of the web and in key innovations which have lead to its worldwide adoption. But there is the nagging doubt that with Chrome OS and the push to make everything web based, innovation is a cover for an attempt to harvest and monetise every last detail of the Chrome OS user.
Look at it this way. Being offered up completely for free, Google Chrome relies on the monetisation of every aspect of your daily PC usage. Hence the cloud storage; Google currently can’t harvest information that is only stored locally on your PC, and so cloud storage ensures Google have access to every facet of information concerning your time in front of a PC screen. It would be completely naïve to view Google as some sort of online charity company, but the pervading feeling that Google are the “good guys” taking on the “money-hungry, evil” Microsoft is a stance that needs reassessing.
It’s going a bit far to place an Orwellian, Big Brother-like mistrust in Google’s motives. It’s just that I’m a bit wary of booting up my netbook and finding a “WEB IS PEACE” mantra emblazoned all over it.
By Gerald Lynch | November 20th, 2009