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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Google introduces the Chrome OS

On July 7th Google has introduced its brand new web-centric operating system: the Google Chrome OS.

The official statement leaves no doubt:
Google Chrome OS is being created for people who spend most of their time on the web [...]
It also makes it clear how Google's OS vision different from Microsoft's. Internet Explorer was born and still is an extension of the Windows OS. Google Chrome OS is a natural extension of Google Chrome, Google's browser.

Years have passed since Sun was claiming that The network is the computer. It clearly was too early, but the path was laid. Google's innovation haven't only been technical, Google has really changed the way users experience the web and their web applications.

Google has undoubtedly dominated the market of search engines, changing the way we search for information and the quality standards we demand. Search engines quality have been measured against Google, since then.

Years later, there came Google Mail. Once more, Google changed the way users use their mail and their expectations. Mail was everywhere. No need to set up a mail client or fall back to a cluttered web interface. No need to constantly delete messages because mails were being bounced back because of mailbox space exhaustion. Competitors, at the end, had to adapt. Google mail was so fast (at least as far as it concerns an email provider) and mailbox size was so big that even libraries appeared to mount a mailbox inside an UNIX OS.

Since then, Google introduced more and more services (which enjoyed pretty different levels of fortune). Some of these products, such as Google Docs, were one of the first tries, at least as far as it concerns such big an entity, to move native desktop applications to the web. The next step seems to be, finally, to move the OS, at least for the users who just live in the web. Google is promising that Google Chrome OS-powered PCs will just work, such as any other home appliance you're using. Sort of on/off OS which starts up in a few seconds (I said few seconds) and connects you to the net.

I think it's not only just a good idea. There are great examples out there of this way of rethinking and approaching the user experience. Think about Google Android, the iPhone OS, or even the Mac OS/X itself. It's pretty much a (slower) electrodomestic with its power on button and there you are. A (beautiful) desktop and all the apps the typical users need. And much more. The iPhone its a step further towards simplicity, although it's obviously not comparable with a netbook, it still is more a PC than a cellular phone.

I'm not the kind of user targeted by Chrome OS. Neither by OS/X. I'm a (nostalgic and) efficient CLI gui. But I think it's time for users such as my sister and my father to just:
  • buy a machine wondering about its color and not about its RAM
  • unpack it
  • power it up
  • use it!
without all the hassle which, inevitably, comes with standard (or legacy?) OSs we're accustomed to. Mac OS/X is the latest and greatest approximation to this philosophy. That's why Apple succeeded in pushing an UNIX into the desktop of so many users. It's not just aesthetic and fashion. Mac OS/X powered machines just do their job. Well. And moreover they're aesthetically pleasant. What would an user desire?

I wonder if this announcement will reignite an OS war.

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