Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Google Chrome OS: a new debate

In the last few years, there has been an ongoing debate inside the Linux community that has concentrated a lot of attention. It seemed that every year was The year of the Linux Desktop, every year hopes were high that Linux could take over the desktop OS World. Discussion was everywhere between those who believed massive adoption was possible and those who thought such hopes were pure utopia.


I recently shared the LATEST INFORMATION about Google Chrome OS, a series of videos from Google themselves demoing the soon to be released cloud based operating system. I have to admit that I did not think much of it until I watched what it was capable of on that presentation. I now believe Google Chrome OS is best positioned to tilt the balance in the home desktop OS world. Here´s a few reasons why:

  • Google Chrome OS is a radically different approach to how we understand the basics of a desktop OS. For example, boot up and shut down times are closer to a TV or a DVD player than to a PC. Similarly, resuming wireless connection from suspend mode is almost instantaneous.
  • The realm of the desktop has been reduced to a browser, an element almost every computer user is fully familiar with. As a result, ease of use goes as far as it gets.
  • Security is maximum, as all data is automatically stored and backed up in the cloud.
  • As virtualization continues to develop, the concept presented by Citrix will expand beyond corporations and become available for anybody, thus allowing a cloud based OS to enjoy the same power and functionality of a traditional PC.
  • Even if Google Chrome OS has, by definition, a strong Internet connection dependency, more and more applications are providing an offline mode.
  • Google Chrome OS is based on Linux, opensource and very low cost. In addition, it naturally integrates with all Google solutions.

For these and other reasons, I see Google Chrome OS as a very attractive alternative for corporations first, and soon after, for the standard home user. In other words, I see the debate changing, no so much about whether Linux is ready to take over the desktop realm anymore, but about what Google Chrome OS represents and if it will benefit Linux as a whole.


Along those same lines, Richard Stallman recently stated his concerns about Google Chrome OS (more on this HERE). Stallman shared his thoughts about how the new approach to home computing Google is proposing represents a risk of losing control over one´s data. He said: "In the US, you even lose legal rights if you store your data in a company's machines instead of your own. The police need to present you with a search warrant to get your data from you; but if they are stored in a company's server, the police can get it without showing you anything. They may not even have to give the company a search warrant." Richard Stallman believes Google is pushing careless computing into users, encouraging them to lose control over their data.

On a different note, the fact that Chrome OS is built on top of Linux was welcome news for Stallman, but not so much that Google is discouraging the use of current Linux applications and local data storage.


Will Google Chrome OS help Linux? I certainly see great opportunities for Linux to benefit from a potential success of this new operating system, specially as it can draw attention from hardware manufacturers and encourage them to share drivers or even open their source. The fact that the Chrome browser is the epicenter of this project is also good news, for Chromium should also benefit from a growth in applications in the Chrome store. Looking forward, I can also see opportunities if Chrome/Chromium increases its market share, for it encourages the use of open source technologies (as opposed to Microsoft Internet Explorer or Apple Safari).

Having said so, will Google Chrome OS help Linux become more popular, more widely accepted? I am not sure, to be honest. Google intentionally removed any referrals to Linux early on, making sure all branding was exclusively linked to Chrome, never to whatever sits behind the curtain. As a result, Google Chrome OS users will probably never know they are using a Linux machine.

On a different note, I must admit Stallman´s got a point in that Chrome also feels like a "stupidifying" OS. It certainly simplifies things and removes much of the nonsense users still have to put up with, but does it go too far? Does it represent a real privacy threat?


I set up a poll at the top right of this page, so please go ahead and vote, let me know what you think about Google Chrome OS.



  1. I think the approach is a good one. A computer already seems to complex for the average user (obviously not the people who read the blog ;D )Thats why I think Chrome OS and Ubuntu's unity OS seem interesting to me, but I guess whether or not people will pick it up depend how they market it.

  2. the one thing i dont like is the paying of money for cloud.i pay for broadband cloud on top i dont think so.cloud is the future but it has to be marketed right,.the payment for cloud has to be included in the broadband fee that in my opinion would be the way forward.google could provide broadband with a partner and do a good deal for broadband and cloud included.then the chrome os would rock.

  3. I can just see new forks of this on DistroWatch...

    At last, somebody with really deep pockets developing Linux at warp speed. Now we will see.