Bruce Lawson's personal site

On Google OS

I’m a Web Evangelist for Opera, but this post does not represent the official Opera position.

So it’s no surprise that Google announced its Operating System:

we’re announcing a new project that’s a natural extension of Google Chrome ”” the Google Chrome Operating System. It’s our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be…Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks…Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We’re designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds.

As I wrote when they released the Chrome browser,

It seems to me that Chrome is designed to compete with Microsoft Windows as an Operating System and Office as an application: Microsoft’s biggest revenue earners (as far as I know).

For my wife, Dad and daughter, this is sure to be a winner. I already use my family’s Linux netbooks in preference to my own laptop for going on to the Web to check a sports result or train time, as their Acer Aspires take 15 seconds to boot up; my Vista laptop takes minutes.

So now Google dominates search, maps and will be running an Operating System (confusingly named identically with its browser). Why wouldn’t they want to do that? They believe, as I do, “for application developers, the web is the platform”.

Let’s not forget that Google also provides many Web applications – its docs suite, its maps, its analytics tools.

The Google annnouncement goes on to say

All web-based applications will automatically work and new applications can be written using your favorite web technologies. And of course, these apps will run not only on Google Chrome OS, but on any standards-based browser.

It would be wrong if Google apps only ran on Chrome and Firefox on the Google OS (will it be possible to install another browser on machines running Google OS?) so I read this announcement as an implied promise that Google’s own apps will be tweaked to run across all standards-compliant browsers, including Safari and Opera. That would be a win for the Open Web.

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13 Responses to “ On Google OS ”

Comment by Matt Wilcox

I can’t wait to see this along with Google Wave, it’s going to be a very slick experience. It might even be pretty – I still think the Chrome browser is the best looking and best behaved browser UI out there.

Comment by Remy Sharp

Hmm…I wonder what the applications will be written in. Are we going to finally see native JavaScript desktop applications perhaps?

Could this be related to some of the API decisions in the HTML5 spec?

Just speculating without giving it too much thought.

Comment by Chris Hunt


Hasn’t everyone – not least the folks Opera – been going crazy at Microsoft integrating a browser into its operating system? Apparently it’s bad for security, anti-competitive, and makes orphans cry.

So now Google do the same thing in reverse – extend a browser to become an operating system – and it’s motherhood and apple pie?

I’m not a fanboy for either side, though I use both of their products, but isn’t this a double standard?

Comment by James John Malcolm

>[..] Google’s own apps will be tweaked to run across all standards-compliant browsers, including Safari and Opera..

Doesn’t it mean other browsers will have to be more standards compliant to catch up to webkit & gecko? πŸ˜‰

Comment by Matt Wilcox

@chris: MS is closed source. Chrome (OS and browser) are open source. MS has massive market share and ignorant users. Thats the difference. Apple bundle Safari too, and there’s no issue there (yet).

Comment by Bruce

Chris, my expression “that would be a win for the open web” reflects the hope that Google’s web apps are opened for all browsers. (I’ve slightly amended the text to clarify that’s what I’m cheering about.)

I have no comment to make about any perceived parallels with Microsoft because, as you say, Opera complained to the European Union about Microsoft’s bundling the browser with the operating system and Microsoft’s browser not playing nicely with sites coded to web standards. Google also joined that complaint.

Comment by Chris Heilmann

@remy this is nothing new. Homesite was a core of C and most of the tool itself was done and extendable with JScript.

You can even script Illustrator with JavaScript.

Comment by Daniel


Microsoft was already in a monopoly position with its Windows OS when they were criticized about making Internet Explorer an integral part of the Operating System (which to the layman user, meant that he/she would never even think of trying other web-browsers, thus the anti-competition argument). Besides, IE’s lack of standard compliance was well-documented, and its vulnerability / numerous security holes were a clear incentive for the industry regulators to intervene in order to enable competition.

As far as I know, Google-OS is not in a monopoly position, right ? πŸ™‚ Furthermore, it’s going to be open-sourced for the most part, and support for other browsers will be ensured.

Google Corp. understands freenomics probably better than any other competitor, and they may well be the next monopoly in a new era of cloud computing. We shall see. For now, their contribution to open knowledge and open-source software undeniably benefits the world, which until very recently is not something that could be said about Microsoft.

I for one am looking forward to playing with Google’s Linux-based OS. It won’t replace my main Mac OS X machine but it should provide an interesting small form-factor / mobile computing experience. Let’s hope that Google get hardware manufacturers to adopt Mary Lou’s / Pixel Qi outdoor-friendly energy-saving LCD displays !! πŸ™‚

Cheers, Dan

Comment by Kyle Weems

Well, I’ll admit I didn’t see this coming this soon, but I did expect something like this to happen eventually.

I think naming it identically to their browser will be a tad confusing, but other than that I like the idea of another free operating system choice (especially one with Google’s level of resources behind keeping it maintained).

I did think about the browser/OS same-vendor issue myself, but as they’re not a monopoly yet and the OS is free, I guess it’s not really a problem for now.

In five to ten years if Google’s suddenly dominating the browser market and the OS market, then at that point we can grab some pitchforks and make angry noises.

Comment by Steve

If it’s Linux based (which I assume it is), then we should at least see great enhancement of drivers and such for the rest of the Linux world.

I’m not ready to give Google more business though, they have control over so much public and private information on the web and that’s a little too much power for my liking.

Comment by Michael Kozakewich

The great thing about operating systems is that you can have a few on one system, and then switch between depending on the circumstance. Need a quick boot to check an email? Press the power button, boot into Chrome OS, and start email.
Otherwise, start whatever else.

It does sound like a really good idea. After using Chrome for a while, it’s just really hard to go back to the other slower browsers. Firefox takes over eight seconds to start, which really chafes at me.

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