While this is not something that we would offer or host on our dedicated servers, last week Google graced the internet via a webcast showcasing their latest project, dubbed Chrome OS. This is the newest endeavor that utilizes their Chrome browser, which they have integrated into Linux to form an operating system. Many people on the internet have been foaming at the mouth to get a glimpse of this operating system after having seen Google’s mobile approach with the highly-anticipated Android. While I do applaud Android, I have to say that Chromium OS is a bust and the wrong direction for Google’s development team.
First off, let’s explain what Chromium OS is: a web browser. Google is pushing the idea of applications and everything residing on the internet in proverbial clouds rather than on machines. The target machines for this operating system are light-weight, cheap computers with little processing power (think ARM and such) and little-to-no storage space. It will be entirely impossible to install applications onto the operating system as there is no console, no package management system to the end user and no ability to willingly launch applications from an end user’s perspective.
Why would Google want to launch something like this? It’s pretty simple when you think about it, considering that Google gets most of their money through advertising. To login to Chromium OS you must provide a Google account that has Google Apps capability. Once logged in, you are greeted with the last session you had running in Chromium OS. Tabs open to the websites you left open, web apps you had accessed and all. Conveniently, Google Apps uses their own advertising services from Google Ads, so the potential cash-cow from integrating more users into their Google Apps system is highly sought after by Google.
You can edit your documents inside Google Docs, save them and then view them from your Android phone to make modifications. You can then login from any other Chromium OS terminal and your documents are there. It’s a pretty neat idea for cloud computing, but I am left wondering about privacy regarding all this information Google gathers. Google has had a troubled past with their End User Licensing Agreement (EULA) in regards to what information they use in Chrome, as well as having no control over the EULA presented to users by third party extensions to their apps service.
Furthermore, Chromium OS is really just a box that has nothing but a web browser — history has shown us many devices that attempted this and failed miserably. The biggest ones that come to mind are WebTV and the 3Com Audrey. The idea is great in that everyone wants a small device that does nothing but looks at web sites. The problem is that these small devices lack the necessary power to do anything fun while browsing the internet. With the way Adobe has handled Flash, the processing power might not have enough oomph to watch YouTube. With the exploits available in Flash, how long until these things get exploited due to not having the ability to update the OS without Google pushing the update? What about support for document viewing such as .pdf, .docx or .xls? You would have to upload those documents to Google from your device so that it is viewable in Google Docs. What if Google were to have a catastrophic failure — like Danger, Inc. had — and lose all data in their cloud? (Although, yes, I know this is highly unlikely.)
On paper, in a perfect environment, Chromium OS would be a great platform for everyone to use. It reduces the complexity of the operating system and makes the experience similar to something all of us know how to do: surf the internet. I just don’t trust a company enough to let them have all of my personal data. I’ll stick to waiting for what’s left inside Pandora’s Box.