Home Why the Chrome OS Matters

Why the Chrome OS Matters

Two years ago I stood at Goolge's mountain view campus in front of about 100 Linux desktop architects. The message I delivered was simple. Linux would never take off in it's current form. A new strategy was needed and the core of this strategy was the web.

The arguments for Linux on the consumer desktop were not working:

  • The main argument of Linux was that it's a free alternative, however most people get PC's with an OS pre-installed. From this perspective 'free' doesn't matter because it's built into the price.
  • The second argument of Linux is 'it's open source.' This argument carries some weight with businesses but a typical consumer doesn't understand or care about open source.
  • The third argument is speed. Not a bad argument but when most people only care about web-browsing and email the bottleneck is usually the dial-up connection, not the x86.
  • Beyond that the argument isn't very compelling. Linux provides the same abilities to launch basic apps, configure settings and has the same or often times worse compatibility issues with drivers.

The future OS is will be based on the web

  • Current operating systems where all developed at their core before the web was invented. We know a lot about what users do on websites and we haven't made any of that easier in the desktop OS.
  • Files can show up on the desktop but live in the cloud
  • Everything is backed up
  • Web sites (apps) work online and offline
  • When I double click on a file in the future it should be able to open in a web-based editor and that web-based editor should be able to save that file back to my desktop.
  • I should not need to worry about installing and uninstalling stuff. I should just use the tools I need when I need them.
All these things are part of the Google portfolio and plan
  • Google Chrome - the browser and it's integration into Google Gears can be the foundation of very complex and rich desktop class apps.
  • Google Docs is a web based editing suite that is obviously going after Office. The ability to click a file from your desktop and have it open online is too obvious not to happen.
  • Google has said that it will target the OS toward 'netbooks.' If you haven't realized it all laptops are becoming netbooks as you spend more and more of your time online.
An operating system based around the web is a really interesting proposition. It's not about 'Linux' it's about a better web experience. This is what consumers are doing understand and this is why this OS matters while Linux still does not.
When I gave my talk many of the Linux architects had good comments and discussion but quickly retuned to bickering about KDE vs. Gnome. It was the Google guys, lurking perhaps, that have taken the message to heart and are building a true OS with the web at it's heart.
This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.