January 22, 2017

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Why Hello There, Chrome OS

One year ago, Google announced that it was building an operating system called Chrome–not to be confused with the Chrome web browser, one of the fastest browsers available today. Yesterday, Google made another announcement: Chrome OS is ready. Well, almost.

In case you were wondering, an “OS” is an operating system. When you flip on your computer, the operating system is the thing you see. If you have a Mac, you’re looking at a Mac OS. If you have a PC, you’re probably looking at Windows OS. And if you’re in the future? Then it’s quite likely you’re looking at Chrome OS.

What sets Chrome OS apart from other operating systems is not what it can do, so much as what it can’t do: It can’t run applications. It can’t store files or documents. It is the internet, essentially. So what’s the point you ask?

The point is that computers are slow. They can do a lot, but they’re used for little. The vast majority of computing is accessing the internet. Word processing, email, listening to music– all of this can be, and is increasingly being done, on the internet. So why are we using machines that take minutes to start up when all we really want to do is get on the web, like now? The Chrome OS boots in about seven seconds. The goal is not only to get you on the web as quickly as possible, but to make your web experience as fast and seamless as possible. It also addresses the question: Why are we lugging all of our data around with us when it can just float up there in the cloud, ready for us to tap into it whenever we’re ready, from wherever we are?

Welcome Home! Users of Google's Chrome browser ought to feel right at home in the OS. It appears nearly identical to the popular, no-frills browser

I ran an article earlier this year in which I made the prediction that “this will be the year when we’ll truly start to see a paradigm shift. The rise in popularity of netbooks, online applications, and mobile computing are all signs pointing the way to a future that’s more all-pervading than it is portable, where your data follows you, whether you like it or not.”

The Big Idea behind Chrome is this: The ways we use computers are changing. Shouldn’t our computers change with it?

So what can Google Chrome do? Well Google’s announcement yesterday was about more than just Chrome OS. They also announced the arrival of the Chrome Web Store.

The store sells Web Apps. You might be thinking, great. Another app store. And it is. But, while these web apps don’t quite bridge the gap between mobile apps and full computer applications, they leave little doubt that we could live in an online-only world, someday soon too.

For me, one of the coolest parts of the presentation, which was held in San Francisco and webcast around the world, was a demonstration of the Citrix Receiver app. Citrix is an enterprise software company. What they do primarily is get applications “off machines and into a data center.” The system’s users (the employees at any company employing a data center) access those programs, but they’re being run on servers, not the users’ computers. Well the Citrix Receiver app allows them to do just that on any Chrome OS machine or Chrome web browser. So what? So imagine you’re running a big company using enterprise services. A Chrome notebook– or netbook, if people still say that–will do everything your employees need it to, with unfettered access to the internet and the Windows based applications on your server, from Microsoft Excel to graphically complex, resource hogging CAD programs.

You can find more out about the Citrix Reciever app here. Seeing this, it’s not so far fetched that web apps dedicated to accessing and running your personal PC programs from wherever you are could come along in the near future.

The Chrome Web App store is already up and running, and if you use the Chrome browser at all, I suggest you check it out. There are plenty of free Apps available. So far I’ve only used the New York Times app–which is great–and downloaded Box.net’s app, which comes with 5GB of free storage. From what I’ve seen, the apps are simple, intuitive, and blazingly fast, much like the Chrome browser itself.

As for computers running the Chrome OS, I would look for them sometime early next year.

This video was put up a year ago, but it still does a great job explaining what Chrome OS is all about:

There’s a lot more that I didn’t cover. And if you’re interested in Chrome OS or Google’s other recent announcements, see if the links below don’t fit your fancy.

Thanks for reading. Come back at the end of the week and I’ll tell you a good story.

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Resources

Introduction to Google Chrome OS, slideshow

Some info on the Chrome OS Pilot Program

Download the Chrome Browser

Motorola’s Android Honeycomb Tablet

The New Google Nexus S: A True iPhone Killer?

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