Is Chrome OS the Next Big Thing?

Category: Software

Did you know that Google has two operating systems? Android, of course, is Google's well-known mobile OS which powers most of the world's smartphones and quite a few of its tablets. The other Google operating system, Chrome OS, is not so popular. And depending on how you see the future, it will either take over the world, or disappear entirely within three years. Learn more about the Chrome operating system...

What is Google Chrome OS?

Google Chrome OS is a Linux-based operating system that relies on cloud computing. Instead of lugging around a hard drive full of applications and data, you store those things in the cloud (online) and access them through a browser. Google Chrome OS uses the Google Chrome browser, of course. If this sounds like the Google version of the netbook paradigm, it is.

The benefits claimed by Chrome OS are similar to those of netbooks. The hardware can be lighter, smaller, and cheaper (although it isn't very cheap yet). If you lose your Chrome-based computer, you haven't lost any data or applications; they're still waiting for you out there in the cloud. You don't need a specific machine with Chrome OS. Also on the plus side, Chrome OS boots in about five seconds! Compare that to other laptops, which take a minute or longer before you're ready for the first click.
Google Chrome OS

But you do need Internet access for most operations. Chrome OS includes the Chrome browser, Gmail, Google Calendar, and the Google Docs office suite. There's also a media player and a file manager. The latest version of Google Chrome OS (v19) added the ability to do some offline work with Google Docs, Calendar and Gmail. Now you can actually watch Netflix streaming content in Google Chrome OS. Other new goodies include a desktop-style UI similar to Windows 7, Google Music, Google+ and Hangouts, along with a basic photo editor and an enhanced remote desktop app.

You can get more apps for Google Chrome OS at the Chrome Web Store. Some are free, some cost money. But there is some really good web-based software there. Evernote, Autodesk, QuickBooks and Picasa, for example. Available games include Angry Birds, Plants vs Zombies, and Bejeweled. Let's see... we've covered web, email, word processing, spreadsheet, calendar, music, photo editing, finance, drafting and games. You just might find everything you need to handle the most common computing tasks.

Is There a ChromeBook in Your Future?

Google has partnered with Samsung and Acer to produce "Chromebooks" – basically, netbooks that run Google Chrome OS. The latest is the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook 550. It sports a a 12.1 inch (1280×800) display, weighs 3.3 pounds, and is powered by an Intel Celeron processor with 4GB of RAM. Internal storage consists of a 16 GB SSD. This is not exactly a tower of power!

Yet the Samsung Chromebook costs a whopping $449 with just WiFi connectivity; add another $100 for Verizon 3G capability (plus a Verizon data plan). That's more than an iPad 2 costs. It's more than an Asus Transformer Pad. See my related article Is This the Future of Laptops? for more info on these very cool laptop/tablet hybrids.

No wonder Chromebooks, in general, are selling so poorly that market researcher NPD Group doesn't bother reporting their numbers. The Chromebook also faces stiff competition and savvy marketing from the ultrabook, iPad, and Android tablets. My article Should I Buy a Netbook, Ultrabook or a Tablet? goes into this in more detail. Also announced was a desktop "Chromebox" that's aimed more at business users.

Not every Google innovation succeeds; witness, Google TV. Google Chrome OS will have a tough time gaining market share, unless the price of Chromebook hardware drops rapidly. I'm not saying that can't happen, but most likely, Chrome OS will eventually be merged with Android, meaning Chrome OS will quietly vanish without a trace. But Chrome's "the web is all you need" paradigm will not go away. The Chrome concept, where the operating system, your software, and even your personal files live in the cloud, is something we'll be seeing a lot more of in the future.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome! Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Is Chrome OS the Next Big Thing?"

Posted by:

01 Jun 2012

I just started using Chrome.... I love it, so easy to use, and so many apps.... Try it you'll like it..... Chrome rawks.....

Posted by:

01 Jun 2012

Come hell or high water... I WILL NEVER have my data floating out in space...for any savvy hacker to pull out of the wind... thin air sure doen't offer me (or anybody else) with half a brian any hint of security... Go figure... THE CLOUD: Only idiots need to apply!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Why do you think the hard drive inside your computer is more secure than an identical one inside a cloud server? I'd argue that data stored in the cloud is MUCH safer than files stored on a local hard drive. Do you use 256-bit encryption for your sensitive files at home? How about strong physical security that includes gated perimeter access, 24x7 on-site security guards, and security cameras? Do you have a fire detection and suppression system, backup power, and a disaster recovery plan in the event of hurricane, flood or earthquake? You can bet your cloud storage provider has all that and more in place to safeguard your data.

Posted by:

01 Jun 2012

Well Bob I prefer Android. ChromeOS will die the same natural death similar to HP. Cloudprint is the only worthwhile tool I use from Chrome. Google should invest more on Android.


Posted by:

01 Jun 2012

I don't like the idea of having all my data in the clouds. Sounds good, but what happens if I don't have Internet access? I'm stuck. Also, the netbook is really too small. A tablet is good is to consume information, but give me a fast laptop with big screen (currently have 17.1) or a desktop for real work.

Posted by:

Nan Bush
01 Jun 2012

As a tech writer, I can think of few things scarier than having a clients' files or my own book manuscript in the cloud and losing my internet connection.

Posted by:

01 Jun 2012

I love my Chromebook and it's totally killed my interest in getting an iPad since it plays the role of "quick things I need to do online in the kitchen or den".

Of course, I got it for free (the CR-48 beta test) and I certainly wouldn't pay $449 for it.

Posted by:

01 Jun 2012

You need Internet connectivity to use a Chrome Book and if you pay for a tiered ISP or mobile provider, you are at their mercy. For those of us who travel internationally, That connectivity might actually be non-existant. For a ultrabook or tablet, you have access to the apps that you have installed and if you have e-mail, you can elect to send when you have Internet activity. So, I think that Chrome OS will have little traction.

Posted by:

01 Jun 2012

Regarding the 1-minute boot time, I have found the "sleep" option in Windows 7 to work very well. Less than 5 secs to fall asleep and less than 5 secs to wake up. It is very tolerant of going to sleep at the office and waking up at home, and vice versa. Now I only reboot every 2 or 3 days.

Posted by:

Harold P. Morgan
02 Jun 2012

That is all this world needs.....yet ANOTHER operating system. As if I don't have enough headaches dealing with my wife's beloved iPad & iPhone and that OS when she has the inevitable problems.

95% of my computer usage involves my photographic hobby and is all performed off-line. MS Windows will continue to be my OS of choice and I won't be using the "cloud" very much. If one doesn't have Internet access or, for some nefarious reason, it is shut down by hackers or government there goes all your data in the so-called "cloud".

I will wait for Windows 8 before I purchase a tablet or any other touch-pad device. Until then it's just me and my trusty Dell laptop and HP desktop.

Posted by:

Paul Kovac
03 Jun 2012

Hi Bob.
I ejoy reading your articles. They keep me updated on what is going on in the electronic world. I believe your articles help many. Keep up the good work!

Posted by:

Moonlight Gambler
04 Jun 2012

My choice is still an Eee PC netbook.
In Australia Eees are cheaper, don't need constant internet access, have way more storage, ten hours battery life, choice of Ethernet or WiFi, plus you can dual boot Windows and Linux.

Posted by:

09 Sep 2012

I agree with your point about file security provided by the cloud, however accessibility to the Internet is a concern that is not limited just to those who travel internationally. There are many places in the US where Internet access is limited or non-existent for travelers. I spent the summer at a scout camp in central Utah. The location where I spent most of the day did not have Internet yet, although it was being worked on. That would make a Chromebook system of little or no use to me there for most of the day. I have no qualms about keeping backup copies of my files in the cloud, but I certainly would not want to have that be my main, let alone my only way to access my files.

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