What Chrome OS Means To You

Earlier this week, Google shocked many people when it announced plans to enter the operating system business and offer a Chrome operating system. Although the new Chrome OS isn’t scheduled to be out until sometime next year, many potential customers are already starting to ask questions.

For starters, some people are already wondering if they should wait for the OS before purchasing additional hardware. Although the Chrome OS has potential to cause some changes in the industry, we won’t know how big these changes will be until the OS is actually released. Bottom line, if you’re in the market for a netbook today, you might as well spend the money now and enjoy using the machine until Google figures out how and when it will begin to offer the Chrome OS.

Today’s computers require a platform (i.e. the OS) that provides applications (such as a web browser) with access to the hardware resources of the computer. Google believes that an operating system’s functions could be combined with those of a browser and plans to integrate the two with its new OS. As a result of this integration, it’s quite likely the Chrome OS experience will be different from the way we interact with a computer’s main control program today.

We don’t know how this experience will differ just yet, but it’s quite likely that the Chrome OS will utilize cloud-based storage and services, especially since some of Google’s current offerings such as Google Docs would benefit from such a setup. Also, we wouldn’t be too surprised if Google uses a folder/label system similar to that found in Gmail. It’s possible the Chrome OS could borrow interface elements such as a tabbed interface from the current Chrome browser as well.

Behind the scenes, the Chrome OS will be an adaptation of Linux. As you’ll recall, the first netbooks came with Linux-based operating systems. While these operating systems did the job, it didn’t take long before manufacturers figured out that users greatly preferred a Windows XP netbook over a Linux netbook, even if the former was a bit more expensive.

Given the history of netbooks and Linux, Google certainly has some challenges to overcome if it is going to succeed in the netbook market. Not only is the netbook market a small one compared to other markets, but many netbook buyers are also purchasing the machine as a second, portable computer. For these users, a different operating system tends to be a stumbling block.

Despite the challenges, Google has plenty of incentive to give the Chrome OS a good try. If it succeeds, Google and all of its products stand to benefit. Plus, in the long-term scope of things, if Google can put a dent in Microsoft’s share of the OS market, Microsoft may see more of a need to make their own operating systems more Web-friendly. This too, would benefit Google.

It will be interesting to watch what happens in the market as the Chrome OS gets closer to launch and finally becomes available. Launching a new OS is certainly no small task, but competition in the market generally leads to better products overall, so we can’t complain.