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.
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.