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Google’s Chrome OS: reviews and observations

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Google’s Chrome OS: reviews and observations

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Keyboard of the Chrome OS demo notebook. [Source: review #5]

This post lists several reviews, summarizes the essentials, and makes several observations about Chrome OS.
Keep in mind that this is the beta version of Chrome OS running on demo hardware. Reviews:
  1. Six Days Working Entirely from Chrome OS
  2. Gmail creator Paul Buchheit: The Cloud OS [source: Daring Fireball]
  3. Cr48 Chrome Notebook [includes gallery of pictures]. Quote:

    It's ready when you are, booting in about 10 seconds and resuming from sleep instantly. There’s built-in Wi-Fi and 3G, so you can stay connected everywhere, and a webcam for video chat. The vibrant 12-inch LCD display, full-size keyboard and oversized touchpad let you enjoy the web comfortably. And at just 3.8 pounds [1.72 kg] with over eight hours of active usage and a week of standby time, it’s easy to take along for the ride.
    What did we leave out? Spinning disks, caps-lock key, function keys, and lap burns.
  4. Google's CR-48 Chrome Notebook: First Thoughts. Quotes:
    • Setting up the system is a cinch -- not radically different from setting up an Android phone. You provide your Google Account info and snap a photo of yourself with the Webcam. that's about it.
    • There's no desktop or floating windows, but you can create multiple full-screen Chrome windows and zip between them using a dedicated key (or by using Alt-Tab-handy for those of us who tend to forget what operating system we're in.)
    • The built-in Verizon 3G broadband works as advertised, and you get 100MB a month for free for two years. (You do need to provide credit-card details even if you only plan on using the freebie service.)
  5. First Impressions: Google Cr-48 Chrome Notebook Dares Us to Cut Cords
  6. Google's ChromeOS means losing control of data, warns GNU founder Richard Stallman 

Summary and observations:

  • Reviewers like the logoless simplicity of Google’s demo notebook. The specs mentioned above make it a great device. A few more tech specs:
    • 16GB Flash RAM
    • Webcam
    • One USB port
    • One VGA port
  • Working with documents is still a bit tricky. Google Docs can help with office documents, but working with ZIPs is even more complicated.
  • The file system is completely hidden from the user. This will probably change in the future. I expect Chrome OS to support external USB storage devices and cloud storage.
  • Printing is also a challenge. Review #1 mentions (online) ways of converting a web page to a PDF and of automatically printing PDFs from a desktop computer if they are uploaded to a Dropbox folder (from anywhere).
  • There are already an amazing amount of web apps out there that do almost anything (edit photos, draw diagrams, create slides, etc.). Alas, few of those work offline, so you normally need to be connected to the internet.
  • There is surprisingly little you cannot do with Chrome OS (coding and heavy gaming come to mind, both of which are slowly being supported on the web platform).
  • Privacy is an issue one should keep in mind.

Does Chrome OS make sense as an operating system? Maybe not, as it mainly changes how apps are developed and deployed. Once you add all missing functionality, you arrive at something that is as complex as the iPad or Android tablets. On the other hand, Chrome OS aggressively drives innovation in the web technology space and I hope this innovation will make it to all desktop and mobile operating systems. It mainly tackles the following two issues:

  • What is missing from web applications to make them as powerful as desktop applications? Things that come to mind are: app management, file management, and notifications. I would love web apps to become first-class citizens on all operating systems. [See related post #1]
  • How do we best keep all of our storage in (sync with) the cloud? [See related post #2]

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