I Just Tried Google Chrome OS And…

Google Chrome OS VirtualBox Screenshot

I think people are kind of missing the point.

If you haven’t had a chance, watch the short video below and read the live blog of the event from TechCrunch.

I installed it as a virtual machine using VirtualBox, as you can see in the picture above. Given that there aren’t any guest additions, it’s somewhat limited – even with a ton of memory allocated, it lags a bit and has a 800×600 resolution. So I’ll withhold my real review until those are released. Some people in the comments on TechCrunch and Lifehacker don’t understand this and are blaming these things on Chrome.

The two things that really stuck out to me while playing around were how freaking fast it booted, and that there is no “install” like a typical Windows or Linux OS – it just boots into the OS the first time around. Really cool.

If you’ve watched the videos or read the articles, I’m sure you’ll agree that it does some pretty cool stuff right? Like boot up instantly. And like save everything in the cloud so you can instantly jump from one computer to another without missing a step (even keeping your tabs open). And it’s super fast.

But everyone is focusing on the wrong things. They’ll only be supporting minimal hardware at the start – you won’t just be able to download it and install it (easily), you’ll have to buy a “Chrome OS netbook”. And it’s just really not practical to have NO hard drive storage at all. And you can’t use other web browsers. And you’re screwed if you don’t have wi-fi. And that it’s basically the same as Chrome the browser, so why bother?

Yes, if you look at things as they likely will be in 11/2010 when the OS launches, that’s probably all it will be. It’ll be great to give your kids. It’ll be great to have a secondary computer that boots up and down in a second for when you’re on the go.  For most people though, they’ll stick with their Windows or Mac or Linux primary computer.  It won’t be a game changer next year, so everyone is writing it off.

The thing that people seem to be missing is that this isn’t about November of 2010. It’s about November of 2015 and November of 2020. Google is placing a bet that we’ll all be operating out of the cloud in a few years. DVDs and MP3s will be a thing of the past because it’s all available at super high quality anywhere in the world. Photoshop and video games and all of our computer-intensive software will all be better online. There will be absolutely no need for local storage of anything for the majority of computer users.

Now, they could be totally wrong. Personally, I’d say it’s 50/50. But – and this is a huge but – if that is how things turn out, they will be light years ahead of the competition. They will have been tweaking and improving their OS for five years while Microsoft and Apple are playing catch-up. They will have suppliers building their “netbooks” with their components. They will have a market share of greater than 0%, whereas Microsoft and Apple will have nothing.

I don’t know how it will turn out.  I do know that it will be fun to follow.

15 comments on I Just Tried Google Chrome OS And…

  1. TIm says:

    My crystal ball must be broken because it is not informing me if this is brilliant or foolish… time will tell, it is interesting seeing a somewhat fresh take on a system that is generally accepted at face value because that’s what it is. I can see both advantages and draw backs to this, I think if it can change consumers mind set it will be a revolutionary improvement in due time.

  2. jrandom42 says:

    Here are the biggest problems I have with Chrome OS:
    1) Accessing apps and storing information in the cloud, when you don’t have any wireless signals.
    2) Trusting Google in leaving alone documents that are confidential or even worse, covered by goverment secrecy rules.
    3) Chrome OS supposedly being only certified to run on certain hardware platforms.
    4) Limited at best support for peripheral devices.
    Personally, Chrome OS looks more like a senior software engineering project, than a fully formed OS designed for public use. There are enough rough edges to bleed to death on, and the strategy for its distribution and use are fuzzy marketing at its best. I think Google dumped a lot of money into someone’s pet project, spent I don’t know how many hundreds of engineering man-hours, and this is the best they can come up with? They’d have been better off forking a known Linux distribution.
    If this is an indication of Google’s direction in the future, they’re doomed and it’s only a matter of time as to how much engineering brain power, money, and other resources they’ll pour into it and totally bankrupt the company. If their aim is to compete directly with Microsoft, I suggest they look at history and see what happened to those who chose to compete directly with Microsoft, to the detriment of what they did best, and spent untold time, money and resources, only to fail. Can anyone recall Novell in the early 90’s?

    • nethy says:

      1) Google are betting on growing connectivity. If today X number of people are connected often enough to make this a non issue, next year it will be X + Y.
      2) As above. I think the trend is in Google’s favour. Also without the ambition to be the one & only OS, you do not have to worry about end-cases.
      3) It’s open source isn’t it? They can’t really lock anyone out of the market can they? Even if it wasn’t, I don’t see a problem. Where is the rule that says every OS needs o run on every platform?
      4) Goes with #2 & #3. Only support the hardware you support.

      As Adam says, you are missing the point. They are not competing directly with Microsoft. They are not trying to be Ubuntu but better. They are competing with these only inasmuch as an ipod or a blackberry competes with these.

  3. nethy says:

    Dead on Adam,

    Two things:
    – Building for 2020 – In ‘Free,’ Chris Anderson talks about how Gmail made an awesome strategic move when they realised the price of unlimited email storage would move to free within a few years regardless of what they are any other major player would do. They made a place for themselves in the market by going there a year or two before the economics made sense & making a huge splash. They are trying to do the same thing here. They think they know where the world is going and they are going to get there before everyone else. Risky, but the rewards may make it worthwhile.

    – Being a secondary computer – Deciding not to be anyone’s main machine, even relying on the availability of another PC might be really liberating. That’s essentially what smart phones do. Simplification can be innovation. Any product that is a simplification cannot be (properly) criticised by saying ‘it doesn’t even do X.’ This criticism always applies disruptive technology. The Walk-mans, PCs or transistors all didn’t do X also.

    That doesn’t mean it won’t fail. 50/50 sounds about right.

    – The Achilles Heel –
    What I do see as the Achilles heel is that fact that Google is doing this presumably to encourage web apps, the web & increasing data storage, application usage etc. This makes them inherently biased towards a particular type of evolution. The problem they are trying to solve is how to get people to use web apps on netbooks not just how to make netbooks better.

  4. jrandom42 says:


    1) You’re kidding, right? Google is depending on others like Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and so on to spend hundreds of millions to upgrade and extend their infrastructure, so that ChromeOS will work? If I was running one of the aforementioned companies, I’d tell Google, “You want your OS to run on netbooks anywhere? Why don’t you kick in some cash, so we can put the network in place to make it happen?”

    2) Most organizations are still wary of placing their documents in the hands of a third party. SOX and HIPPA are two big reasons. Let’s not even begin discussion of anything that might be covered under Official Secrets rules. Google as document repository is still a security breach waiting to happen.

    3)Open source? Isn’t that simply customer support by saying, “here’s the source code. Fix it yourself”?

    4) So if I want, for instance, to have my bluetooth fingerprint scanner work with a ChromeOS netbook, I’m gonna have to write the driver and the interface? Get real, like an average consumer has the time or expertise to do device drver developement. Linux has a bad enough time with Wi-Fi and 3D video drivers, let alone ChromeOS.

    • nethy says:

      I think you’re just playing devils advocate. I also think we are just going to go back over the same ground. But here goes:

      1) Google are not expecting Verizon, AT&T, Sprint or anybody else (BTW, there is a world outside the US too) to do anything. They are expecting the market to. In fact they are expecting the market to do tomorrow what it did yesterday. That’s all.

      There is a trend going on. Today, a certain number of people are connected to the internet most of the time. Tomorrow this number will be higher then today.

      Are you really disputing either of these?

      2) Two complimentary points:

      – Not competing with Microsoft: Not allowed at your company? Don’t buy it for your staff. That’s it. It is allowed at some companies. Some consumer electronics have been sold outside of companies before. If that cuts the market in half, no problem.
      – Trend is Good: Google docs is not the only option. Any web app works. How many companies use Outlook Web Access? There are already document solutions companies can install on their own servers. There are lots of little things going on & there is no reason to go in to all of them. The trend is that more companies/people are using web apps/web storage & problems like security are being solved. The trend is not a bad one to bet on.

      3 & 4) Open Source means nothing to the user. It does mean that if Google gets in to a fight with Dell & doesn’t approve their machine, they cannot lock them out. If some company thinks they are being held back by Google’s policies, they can DIY & be on par with Google with very little resources. Does it bring down the barrier to the point where any user can hop it? Absolutely not. But it does bring it down to the point that virtually any technology company (even <10 people) can.

      4) If you want a bluetooth fingerprint scanner to work with a ChromeOS netbook you are missing the point. This is not a replacement for you mac or linux or whatever you use. Keep those. You still need them. This is for the internet. It may mean you use it less because a lot of the stuff you do on your main computer you can do on ChomeOS. That is overlap, not replacement.

      Do you complain that your Ipod won't talk to your fingerprint scanner?

      Linux has a bad time because Linux tries to be your PC. It is usually installed by the user on a machine they already have. These are not a problem Chrome is trying to solve.

      If you are still thinking 'but it doesn't do what my other computer does' you are really missing the point. It's like saying that a bicycle doesn't do what your tractor does.

  5. jrandom42 says:

    Then what’s the problem Google is trying to solve? There are a number of limited resource mobile OSs out there. What’s supposed to make ChromeOS different? That it’s from Google?

    I don’t have an iPod, but my Zune, and my Windows Mobile phone work with my Bluetooth Fingerprint scanner. Haven’t tried it yet on my wife’s Palm Pre, or my sister’s Nokia SymbianOS phone.

    • nethy says:

      Now I’m sure you’re playing devil’s advocate.

      What’s the problem Google is trying to solve
      Easy, cheap, nice to use Netbook. Good for using the internet.

      What’s supposed to make ChromeOS different?
      From a phone OS? The fact that it’s not a phone OS, obviously. It’s made for a netbook.

      Fingerprint scanner?
      If you really want a fingerprint scanner to work with your netbook, this probably isn’t for you. Linux is probably for you. This is for using the internet, without a fingerprint scanner. Want to hack together a beautiful monstrosity, cool. Go for it. Either Windows or Linux is probably your preference. Choice is great.

      There is a distinction between “I don’t want this” & “Nobody would want this.” I use a phone that cost $75 5 years ago. Some people want iphones.

  6. Techno Girl says:

    I have installed Chrome OS on one of my netbooks and the performance of Chrome OS is just okay. there is nothing fancy or very special about it. It was just a sort of GUI version of linux or something.

  7. Marc Henessy says:

    i installed Chrome OS on two of my netbooks. the Chrome OS works great and its loading time is very fast too.

  8. Leon Murray says:

    I have tried using Chrome OS in one of my desktop PC’s, the overall performance is above average to excellent

  9. hanse says:

    very exited about that. is there a downloadable image out there?

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