People have been speculating about a Google Operating System ever since Google released Gmail. And the rumours about Google OS grew even stronger after they announced Android in late 2007. However, all these speculations about Google’s own operating system were just that – speculation. Today Google changed all that. Earlier today they dropped a bomb through an innocuous looking announcement on their official blog.
Google’s new operating system is going to be called Chrome. It will be an open source product that Google is said to be building from scratch based on the Linux kernel. Like all Google products the focus is going to be on simplicity, elegance and utility. Speed and security are expected to be two hallmarks of the Operating System.
Google is a company whose roots lie in the Worldwide Web. And naturally they have a drastically different vision about Operating Systems. In their own words:
We designed Google Chrome for people who live on the web — searching for information, checking email, catching up on the news, shopping or just staying in touch with friends. However, the operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web. So today, we’re announcing a new project that’s a natural extension of Google Chrome — the Google Chrome Operating System. It’s our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be.
The advent of rich web applications led many pundits to predict that the OS would soon become redundant. With Chrome OS, Google is aiming to do just that. From the initial announcement it is clear that Google envisions the operating system as a platform for simply connecting with the web. The real work will be done within the browser via web based applications.
The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.
If this seems familiar it’s because this is similar to what Palm did with their WebOS in Palm Pre. The applications that will run on Google Chrome OS will be developed using standard web technologies. The web will be the true platform for the applications with the operating system being reduced to a mere enabler. The reliance on already existing web standards means that any standard compliant web browser would be able to run these applications on any platform.
Initially Google will be targeting the Netbook market and is already working with various manufacturers. Google intends to support multiple platforms including ARM and x86.
Make no mistake, this is a direct invasion into Microsoft’s territory. This announcement is huge and expect the web to be buzzing about this announcement for the days to come. Clearly, this is something Google had in mind for a long time and they had been systematically working towards it. In order to achieve this vision they first released the critical components of a web based operating system – the browser (Chrome) and a platform for enabling the development of richer web applications that can have a tighter integration with the desktop (Google Gears).
Should Microsoft be worried? Yes, definitely. Will Google OS shake up the market? It may have a major impact in the years to come and give a much needed impetus to alternate operating systems besides creating a space for itself. However, will Windows be obliterated by Google OS? No. Google OS is targeted towards a specific market. Not everyone does all their work on the web. In fact the quality of internet connection required for using a Web OS isn’t available in many parts of the world. It will be hard to topple Windows. Windows has many strong suites that endear it to both professionals and casual users. On one hand there are professional applications like Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office and on the other hand there are thousands of high quality games. In fact games are responsible for attracting a significant quantity of casual users (and obviously gamers). Another big challenge for Google will be familiarity. As Internet Explorer has demonstrated, people love using what they are accustomed to and most of them don’t actively seek alternatives.
With very little known about the Google OS we are merely speculating at this moment. However, if anyone can challenge Microsoft, it is Google. Google Chrome OS is scheduled to be launched in the second half of 2010. The code itself will be revealed later this year to the open source community.