Yes, this is big.

Forget the accusations that George Bush planned the war in Iraq from his earliest days in office. The really big news was released yesterday on the Official Google blog:

[T]oday, we’re announcing a new project that’s a natural extension of Google Chrome [Web browser] — the Google Chrome Operating System. It’s our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be.

Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010. Because we’re already talking to partners about the project, and we’ll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve.

Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We’re designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. 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.

That sound you just heard was Microsoft’s lawyers figuring out how to prompt anti-trust regulators to take action against Google. That other sound you just heard was everyone else in the world sniggering at the thought of Microsoft cooperating with anti-trust regulators.

Aside from the sniggering, Google’s new OS has the potential to really change the way we think about the Web. Imagine an operating system that is fast, small, stable, and extremely resistant to online security threats. And imagine that operating system is opensource so that a community of programmers can keep it safe, and develop new functionalities for it. If Google can actually deliver such a product, this really could be a big deal.

Why? Because with a free OS, you should be able to buy a netbook for a couple hundred bucks. That netbook will be smaller and lighter than your current laptop, so you won’t care if it gets stolen (and if it does get stolen, all your data will be online, not on the netbook). So you’ll leave your current laptop at home, and when it’s time to replace it, you’ll buy a less-expensive but more powerful desktop machine (and you won’t have to worry about transferring data from the netbook to the desktop machine because the netbook’s data will be online). Or if all you have right now is a desktop machine, you will be more likely to get a netbook.

At this point, all the Linux fans will rear up and point out (rightly) that the Google OS is little more than a stripped-down version of Linux. This is true, but lots of people are already using GMail and Google Docs (and who would never use Linux because of its geeky reputation), and they will just assume that Google’s OS is going to be easy to use.

So this is big. It is not huge, nor will it threaten Computing As We Know It. But it’s big.

7 thoughts on “Yes, this is big.

  1. Diggitt

    My computer science PhD friends all use Chrome. I downloaded it onto my desktop but haven’t yet had time to get into it. Apparently it knocks the sox off WXP.

    Incidentally, one such friend persuaded me to buy the Asus Eee 901, a netbook that weighs a few pounds, has 6 hours of battery life, with a keyboard 92% fullsize. It uses Linux, which I have learned is a breeze to use. I am not a geek — I am a 60+ Meadville Lombard student.

  2. Scott Wells

    Still ruminating on it. On the one hand, I’m trying to ween myself — if you excuse the phrase; I didn’t coin it — from the Google teat. (I’m moving from Google reader to Firefox 3.5 plus the Brief plugin. Moving slowly.) I don’t like their data totalism anymore than Microsoft’s software totalism. And Google is far more woven into my daily life than MS ever was. And is it perverse to wish Bing was better?

    On the other hand, it might be a gateway for Linux use.

    I’ll wait until it actually gets released under a recognized liberal license and worry then.

  3. Scott Wells

    @Diggitt — are you using the default Xandos-based Linux install, or something like vanilla Ubuntu Linux, or perhaps one of the netbook remixes?

    This is live subject at work, but we’re pretty wonky.

    I use (vanilla) Ubuntu Linux 9.04 on a EeePC 701 — the oldest and lowest-spec-ed of that line of netbooks. But it is easy to carry on trips.

  4. Dad

    I’m always sceptical of claims made by software developers, so I will wait and see. Meanwhile I am comfortable with my dual boot WXP – Linux computer.

  5. Diggitt

    I use the default Linux. Am still very much a novice with this — I have to travel too much to lug along separate notebooks, but yeah, pen and paper are closest to my heart.

  6. Dan

    Scott Wells @ 2 — I try to stay away from Google as much as possible. I don’t like the fact that they records so much information about me, and have a really crappy privacy policy. So yeah, I heard this news with mixed feelings.

Comments are closed.