Whatever happened to Google Chrome OS?

By on February 26, 2012
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Is Google’s operating system going the way of the Dodo?

We all know the tremendous success Google has had with its Chrome web browser. But whatever happened to Chrome OS, which was introduced with great fanfare in 2009?

Let’s retrace some of the activities so far.

Google’s Chrome web browser appeared first in 2008, and it has in just a few short years pretty much taken over the world of web browsers. A few months ago it overtook Firefox as the number two web browser worldwide, and it may become number one, passing Internet Explorer, this year.

The year after, in 2009, Google set out to create an operating system centered on the Chrome browser. It was released in November 2009 as the open source Chromium project. Anyone could download it and install the new OS, but it never really caught on. This was despite that Chromium came out right in the heyday of netbooks, these small, often underpowered, and usually very cheap PC notebooks.

The point of Chrome OS was that it was in principle just a web browser. You start up the computer and it starts up the Chrome browser. If you want any apps, you get them from the Chrome App Store. There is a little bit more to Chrome OS than just the browser, but not much at all. This means that a computer running Chrome OS should be faster than if the same computer ran, for example, Windows. It should also mean better battery life, and a less complicated life for the user, as it’s pretty much all online – operating system, apps, data, etc.

In other words, perfect for a netbook.

Google CR-48

Then in late 2010 Google sent out 60,000 free CR-48 notebooks running the Chrome OS. The CR-48 looked very much like Apple’s first generation MacBook, the black model. It was a reference design, meaning it was supposed to give manufacturers and developers ideas about what Chrome OS could be used for.

The CR-48 created a lot of buzz around Google’s Chrome OS, but because it was available in limited quantity and only to those users that Google deemed fit to receive one, it never became something for the masses, nor was it intended as such.

In May 2011, the Chromebooks were announced, notebooks running the Chrome OS from other manufacturers, like Acer and Samsung. The month after some models started shipping in a limited number of countries.

After that, it’s been pretty quiet concerning Chrome OS and Chromebooks.

So what happened to Chrome OS? Personally I suspect that Google’s interest got drawn to Android, by preference or necessity. Android has arguably commanded much more of the headlines compared to Chrome OS. It’s also with Android that Google finds itself in legal battles, directly or as a supporting act to hardware vendors, which must take up much attention and resources. And even though Android and Chrome OS are two very different products, is it viable that Google keeps both going?

We’ll have to wait and see, I guess. Personally I’m excited about the idea of a computer running Chrome OS, as long as it can be fast, affordable, durable, and connect on the go to the Internet. Most of the things I do with a computer, for personal or professional reasons, I do in a web browser anyway. More often than not, that is Chrome.

I sure hope that Google is working on something exciting for Chrome OS. Now that we know that both OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion and Windows 8 are going to be very much about the cloud, it’s time for Google to step up and show that it wants to be the leader in this area.


I write and talk too much about tech. You can find my personal blog at Nystedt.org, my radio shows at dxbtech.com, and me on Twitter as mnystedt.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Allen-Williams/1389687638 Allen Williams

    chrome os serves no purpose. who wants just a browser when it costs the same as a regular laptop? kill off chrome os and replace it with the x86 version of android. then you might actually have something. personally i’ll stick with windows because it just plain works.

  • IraMinor

    Google is terrible about marketing ChromeOS and it isn’t supported on enough variety of hardware. Having it on a little toy laptop is not enough. It needs to be on a small, fast, inexpensive desktop ChromeBox and support a big monitor and full size keyboard. It should be marketed for its high security and low maintenance. No viruses and no virus checkers, no defrag and automatic updates. It should be marketed to corporations and also for shopping, stock trading and banking, where high security is required.  

    • http://twitter.com/QuixoticRocket Alex

      High security means less information online, not more. Chrome OS is not good for high security situations.
      In fact the highest security situations dictate _no_ internet access. Chrome OS wouldn’t even work there.

  • DaALC

    Do you people do ANY research these days!??!?
    Chrome OS is in line to be built into televisions. The TV’s will have built in LAN port/ wifi, connect to net and the rest speaks for itself.
    I would guess at the moment they are looking to get Chrome OS and Android working together so your data is seamless across devices, and allowing you to use your tablet and phone as a remote.

    • ME

      I apparently don’t care.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1254015557 Scott Allen Abfalter

    Android and the shift to tablets.  

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