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Google goes for speed, security in Chrome OS

But it will only be able to run Web-hosted apps

By Juan Carlos Perez
November 19, 2009 03:31 PM ET

Computerworld - Google released its Chrome operating system to the open-source community today and said it has designed the netbook OS to be faster, simpler and more secure than existing ones.

However, Google also made it clear that Chrome will not be able to replicate everything that other operating systems do. For example, Chrome OS will only run Web-hosted applications and its peripherals will have to comply with specific hardware reference designs. This means it will not even be able to run applications built for Google's own Android mobile operating system.

As such, when the first Chrome OS netbooks hit the market at the end of 2010, Google expects them to be "companion" devices whose owners will also have conventional PCs in their houses.

"There are applications today that aren't available on the Web. We're really focused, as the use case for this device, that most people who buy this device next year, we expect them to have another machine [with a conventional operating system] at home," said Sundar Pichai, vice president of Product Management at Google. "The goal of this device is for it to be a delightful experience for you to be on the Web. That's the scenario we're focusing on."

"There will be some things this will not be able to do. If you're a lawyer and are planning to spend your entire day editing contracts back and forth, this isn't the right machine for you," Pichai added at a press conference at Google's Mountain View, Calif. headquarters that was webcast.

As such, it seems that the Linux-based Chrome OS will also require that end-users be very comfortable with cloud computing and its basic idea of keeping applications and their data stored in a vendor data center.

In exchange, Google is promising an operating system that it says will be exponentially faster at booting up and significantly more secure than conventional PC operating sytems like Microsoft's Windows and Apple's Mac OS.

Google is taking the right approach by narrowing the scope of the Chrome OS to netbook devices and Web applications, said Gartner analyst Ray Valdes. "It would be a mistake for Google to try to do a conventional operating system. That war was fought and won long ago, mostly," Valdes said.

People who evaluate Chrome OS using the criteria commonly applied to conventional desktop OSes are missing the point. "Some people have been asking: 'Can I run full-fledged Photoshop, or full-fledged Excel on Chrome OS?' and 'What about all the device drivers from all the vendors and the peripheral cards?' These were never part of the mission," Valdes said.



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