Sunday, 22 November 2009

Will Google Chrome OS Fail?

It might just be me. I might be biased because I'm a Linux user sick and tired of hearing Microsoft FUD about hardware support in Linux. But it seems to me as though the pro-Microsoft author of this article is suffering from a sever case of the skitters.

I mean isn't the writing on the wall for Microsoft and it's supporters? Linux is not as they claimed dead in the netbook market. It's flourishing apparently. Googles Android was not a failure as many predicted. In fact Googles smart-phone OS is gaining market share with ever increasing numbers of handsets appearing all the time while Windows is losing market share on the smart-phone.

Social media sites like Facebook are becoming increasingly important to mobile devices. So important in fact apps on smart-phones to access sites like Facebook seem to be essential features to just sell a handset. However Randall C Kennedy seems to think Googles web-centric netbook OS will fail? He thinks Linux is fatal flaw number one? A web based interface is fatal flaw number 2 and an inflexible hardware platform is also a fatal flaw.

For those reasons Googles web based OS will fail.

Personally I say he's wrong and here's why. People love Google for one simple reason. Google provides insanely useful services to people all over the world. And from the point of view of normal web users at least, those services are totally free of charge. No costs involved.

The Amazon kindle and it's ilk are the second reason. The fact that you can't upgrade a kindle the same way you can upgrade a desktop PC hasn't stopped people from buying them. The fact that the Kindle doesn't play with an iPod hasn't stopped people buying them. Even the fact that Amazon can and will delete your purchases at will for whatever reason it sees fit hasn't stopped people buying the Amazon kindle and similar devices. All of which by the way run an OS based on Linux.

But it's not the OS that's important here. It's how useful the device is to the consumer and how profitable it will be for the vendors. Get those two things right and you have a product you can sell to people with confidence. I strongly suspect netbook manufacturers will put their own spin on the basic Chrome OS user interface as they have done with Android.

Linux as a "device" OS has in fact been extreamly successful. Linux powers everything from toasters and satnavs all the way up to DVD players, smart-phones, ebook readers and beyond. None of these "devices" seem to be "failing". Consumers don't care that these devices run Linux. They just want them to work. Which is a key point Microsoft apologisers like Randall C. Kennedy always deliberately miss.

People don't care which operating system is on their PC, their smart-phone or their netbook. What they care about is, does it work? Does it let them do the things they want to do the way they want to do them? Google are answering those questions. Microsoft keep serving up more of the same.

Now it's interesting to note that while Chrome OS isn't even completed yet. Microsoft apologists have it marked as a failure. Could this be to distract attention away from the failure of Windows 7 to convert the Windows XP faithful? Windows 7 has been such a great success Microsoft and it's army of apologetic bloggers are already talking about Windows 8 arriving in 2012 (the end of the world apparently) and even Windows 9!

It's time the Microsoft faithfull woke up to reality. Microsoft just aren't going to have it all their own way any longer. At least not by playing nice.


  1. Nice piece aiki. But I think that the main reason so many writers are having a problem with Chrome OS is the name. Because Google is calling it an Operating System, it's being compared to Windows. It's that comparison that is the problem. The two are simply so different that there is no real comparison in their functions. Any comparison can only be in their ability to run SIMILAR programs.

    Chrome OS isn't really an Operating System in the true sense of an OS. It could be more accurately classified as a User Interface. If it were actually a computer OS, it would have no difficulty in running software or saving data to a HD. The truth is that the Google OS is a modified and more robust version of their browser. With the right add-ons and plug-ins, Firefox could easily perform any functions that Google might includes in their "OS".

    I had at first thought that Google had made a mistake in naming it Chrome OS. But after reconsidering, I thought it was pretty farsighted. I think that they will eventually faze out the browser version and go with the OS. Same name, easy transition! (Plus all the free press that it generated by calling it an OS!)


  2. No Chrome OS is a proper OS. It's every bit an OS just as Android or WinMo or iPhone OS are operating systems. The fact that it breaks with the "traditional" desktop paradigm doesn't change that.

    MS-DOS was an OS. It was less well developed than Chrome OS is now.

  3. I guess it's all in how you view an Operating System. My understang is that Chrome will sit on top of a Linux kernel. I see that kernel as the functioning OS and Chrome as the interface.


  4. I think that some companies calling their products OSs is very misleading. Windows and OSx are not just OSs. They are "Software Packages" with an OS buried inside. If you ask a Ubuntu, Suse, Red Hat, etc. user, what OS they are running, they will say Linux. Because that is an accurate answer. For Google to call Chrome an OS when in fact it runs on a Linux platform, is just as misleading as MS calling Vista or any other of their Windows versions "OSs".


  5. I see where you're coming from gmat. But a kernel alone isn't really enough for an OS that needs to provide a UI. Clearly an OS like Ubuntu, Windows, OS X or Chrome needs a UI of some kind.

    Now just as with Android Chrome will run it's own apps. The apps on Android aren't native Linux apps. They run on Java so far as I know.

    Similarly Linux would do much with only the kernel. It needs all the GNU utilities to get stuff done. Many of the "commands" in Linux are just programs that run outside the kernel. Yet these are considered part of the OS. Without them the OS wouldn't be able to do basic things like copy a file. And networking would just be a non-starter.

    While Chrome might use the Linux kernel I'll bet Google have made significant changes to either the kernel or the surrounding applications and utilities that make the kernel useful.

    If it were the case that Chrome OS was just Linux with the Chrome web browser on top it would be done by now. It's not done. not by a long shot. So there must be more going on.

  6. Bundling software with your OS doesn't make it any less of an OS. With Linux and Mac OS X there is still a clear dividing line between where the OS stops and the applications software begins. So that's not misleading in the slightest.

    Microsoft did however blur the line between the OS and applications software. But that still doesn't make Windows any less of an OS.

    GNU/Linux was supposed to be the name of the open source OS we call Linux. Since the OS is the combination of the Linux kernel and the GNU utilities that make the kernel accessible.

    Since most people have dropped the GNU part I think it's more appropriate to simple refer to each distribution by name. So I consider Ubuntu to be a distinct OS from Red Hat Enterprise Linux or CentOS or Fedora or SuSE.

    Yes they all share common components. But they all have major differences too. They aren't all even using the same version of the Linux kernel and some people choose to custom build their own kernels.

    So with that in mind, to say your running Linux doesn't actually mean an awful lot. The specific distribution you have choose will determine what you can do and how you go about doing it.