Google's ChromeOS: Ten observations

Google took the wraps off their Chrome OS yesterday. The OS will be a big deal. Here are some observations that you might not have considered.

1.This isn't a 100% Google endeavor. Canonical, the company that puts out the most popular desktop Linux, Ubuntu, is doing some of the major work behind it. That means that they are also going to be experts at this Open Source OS and will be able to do things like build a Firefox OS or create their own builds for netbooks.

2. Google is really slimming this down in every aspect. Netbooks and laptops that run this OS aren't going to need hard drives or DVD players or much besides USB and power interfaces (and 802.11/3G internet). In fact, the OS will work well for System on a Chip (SoC) devices like tablets and thin clients.

Also being SSD-only will also allow it to forego a lot of the PC's BIOS startup obligations and its current Disk system reliance.

3. Thin client. Chrome OS is really an "Internet Thin Client OS" when you think about it. The OS is the browser; browsers run simple apps. Remember this could also be a Point of Sale (PoS) cash register thin client or a kiosk or those things that UPS and other carriers use.

There are about 10 trillion thin clients out there running some sort of Windows which account for a lot of Microsoft's revenue and market share. Now Microsoft will have to compete with almost free hardware and a free OS. That isn't going to be pretty for any of their OSes.

4. This won't be released until 2010 but there will still be issues with Internet connectivity next year. Airline flights in a year might have some Wi-Fi access, but you aren't going to be able to stream Hulu over the connection, not when everyone else on the plane is trying to do the same thing. There are also lots of white spaces on the 3G carriers maps. Anyone using an iPhone on AT&T knows that. These devices, even with significant caching, won't be very much fun without Internet.

5. Web apps are nice and getting nicer, but they still lack a lot of the interactivity of native apps. Just ask Apple, who released the iPhone thinking developers would be fine with Web only apps. And the Palm Pre's WebOS, which takes Web apps a little further, isn't exactly flying off the shelves or attracting hordes of developers.

That isn't to say Web apps aren't going to make huge strides for/because of the Chrome OS. I think we'll see things like Web App gaming really take off. Oh and Google said they wouldn't be supporting Silverlight on the Chrome OS but it is implied that Adobe's Flash will be supported at some point (and probably Air). We'll see what can be done there.

6. Even with HTML5 caching of email calendars and other offline information, you don't get everything you need. Say you have a few multi-GB Gmail accounts on your machine. Add some media, like 10GB of MP3s and a few movies. You begin to spill over normal SSD-sized hard drives. That six-hour coast to coast to coast flight is going to get a little boring. Airline Wifi isn't going to cut it either, even if Google makes it free.

7. Chrome OS will eat the bottom of the Windows market. Not just Thin Clients like I mentioned above. It is going to take a lot of low end Netbook market share. Windows is going to be the OS between Google on th elowend and Apple on the high end.

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8. This should scare Intel and the x86 crowd as well. Google has said Chrome OS will run on ARM which will be a significant amount of Chrome OS netbooks, I'd imagine, because ARM chips cost a fraction of Intel chips, run cooler and can and match Intel's low end offerings in speed. Smaller, cooler chips allow formore attractive designs as well.

9. Chrome OS devices are going to be very inexpensive. Sergey Brin mentioned that Chrome Netbooks would cost something similar to Windows Netbooks. Um, no.

It isn't just that $25 in OS cost that the netbook makers will be saving. By going to a low capacity SSD, say starting at 8GB, instead of a hard drive, you are losing weight and price. Then consider that with an ARM chip, you are paying a fraction of what an Atom costs - which is already very low for a PC.

You won't need as much RAM to run Chrome OS either. Just being a kernel and a browser saves a lot on memory overhead. 512MB of RAM might be all you need. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see a sub-$100, base model Chrome OS PC, from a major vendor like Dell, HP, Acer, ASUS or Toshiba.

10. We haven't seen everything. We know Google likes surprises. Just like finding out about Google Navigator just a few days before the launch of the Droid, I'm sure Google is working on some extra secret special features. GPS, which is built into a lot of chipsets currently, seems to be the hot area right now and browsing with a GPS enabled browser would allow the Goog to throw up neighborhood relevant ads, which I think might be about to blow right up.

There is also the telecommunications component. With Google's recent Gizmo5 purchase, this thing will have everything it needs to be your mobile phone as well.

If you want to give Chrome a try (lackluster so far is my take), hed ovr 2 GDGT.

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