Google Chrome OS

Google announced it’s initiative to build an OS around it’s Chrome browser. About time. The idea of having a browser based Linux platform is one of the things that had driven me to play with Linux in the first place. It was clear from the experiments I did that this was easily possible. Webkit with a good JavaScript engine is a great choice for that, which is what Chrome is. I guess it just took Google’s might to make it happen.

So why would Google invest in something like the Chrome OS. It’s easy, and people have speculated on it for a long time. Google wants you to spend all your time in a browser. Why? Because it changes the game. Commerce has move to the web in droves and Google wants to get you closer to that so it can get it’s cut for getting you there. It’s been a long time coming and the planets are finally aligning to make it happen.

Firefox could have done the same, but Google has the dough to make something like this happen. Which again calls into question why this couldn’t have been done in an open source project to start with. But I fear the Gnome/KDE bun fight has taken the Linux community’s focus away from how the desktop is really evolving. Google knows where things are going. It’s helping to drive them to begin with.

Will this impact Windows? I don’t think so. We’re creatures of habit and Windows already has a good browser experience. Will this impact Linux desktop? Probably. At the least it could be a better place to go if all you want to do is get away from Microsoft, which, if you are Joe average consumer, would be the only reason you go to Linux. Mind you this Joe developer is pretty happy on Linux. Even then, I am sceptically waiting to see a good browser based IDE experience.

But is the web ready for this? I’m not sure. A lot of people are saying Google Docs is pretty good. GMail is my e-mail client of choice outside of work. I could IM using the browser I guess. I think Google Wave will shake the cart here providing a slick collaboration environment that redefines all these things, so we’ll see. I’m sure once you adopt a browser-based OS you’ll find out quickly whether it sucks or not.

So what does this mean for Android? As I’ve stated here and on Twitter (dougschaefer, BTW), browsing on a 4″ screen blows. I really struggle with trying to pan around a web page to find the information I need. This is not to say that web services aren’t useful on smartphones, it just that they work much nicer if there is a thicker client to format the data to the platform, and to just manage the data bandwidth better.

Probably the most interesting aspect of this that crossed my mind is that the Palm Pre already is browser based OS. It’s also based on Webkit running on a Linux platform. So the real question is – will Google try to get Chrome OS into the smartphone format? I swear the Chrome and the Android guys don’t talk to each other. Or this strategy would already be figured out before the announcement.