Man, on the long list of Things Tom Saw Coming, this is most certainly near the top. Today, Google announced that they’re going to release an operating system modeled after their Chrome Browser. I don’t think I’ve launched into it here on Schrödinger’s, but I have a Thing about Google. They make so many useful products (Search Engine, Reader, GMail, Calendar, Picasa, and Product Search to just name the ones I use myself), and that’s great! Far be it from me to discourage such a practice. Even further, they seem content to share these developments with everyone, for free; also admirable.
Not to take too Orwellian of a spin on this, but what happens on the day that Google ceases to be a benevolent dictator, and turns into an authoritarian one? Would the internet come crashing down in a day? Maybe not, but imagine the impact if one day Google packed up and left town? It’s scary. I just can’t get on board, fundamentally, with the idea that one company should have such a controlling share of my online activity. Once again, not that it’s their fault, but I feel like there should be some type of “internet anti-trust” to prevent such a scenario as outlined above from occurring.
So with that theory, I’ll say that I’ve long expected Google’s foray into the Operating System field. ChromeOS will, of course, be free, due to Google’s decision to embrace Open Source for this project, and try and mine out some of the work to the community. I’m unsure how well this is going to work. Google’s allure and success have largely been because they can maintain control. Everything Google (and even their Labs Branch, for the most part) is near-perfect for the end-user, and that’s because they seldom, if ever, release a work in progress. They polish and polish until the only thing you can see is the sparkling reflection of your own stupid grin in their fantastic product.
Introduce the open source community into the equation, and suddenly there’s conflicting directions, incompatibilities, and worst of all, loss of homogeneity with other Google products. Unless they maintain unflinching and total control over the core, ChromeOS won’t gel with the rest of the Google line, and that’s going to be a problem is the OS isn’t the sleek, elegant, refined user-experience people have come to expect from the company that revolutionized internet searches.
By no means am I prognosticating failure; I have total faith that Google will pull it out in the end. I’m just curious to see how the community responds.
It’s gunning for speed, which is fantastic, and reportedly Chrome has in spades (I don’t use it myself. You’ll have to pry my Firefox from my cold, dead hands). This goes along with their goal to address the issue of providing a well-tailored OS to the burgeoning product field that is ‘The Netbook’. Vista is just too hard on those little guys, and XP is finally starting to show its age. Certainly there’s around 1.4 million Linux distros that would work fantastically on those machines, but can you imagine the complexity differential between Ubuntu and a Google product? Also consider the type of user that purchases a netbook. Finally, recall then that Chrome OS is still built upon a Linux kernel, so they net all the benefits, along with the renowned sleekness that’s come to define their products.
Google knows how to choose its battles, and I will go so far as predicting a knockout. It’s free, so I can almost promise I’m going to look further into this when it gets closer to becoming a reality.