Campbell: Google OS as a new netbook computer

By Donald Campbell

There is much afoot regarding netbooks, as they continue to evolve and find their place in the… There is much afoot regarding netbooks, as they continue to evolve and find their place in the computer world.

People criticize and laud netbooks in seemingly equal proportions. Some say they are inexpensive and provide just enough processing power for the average user.

Others maintain that netbooks offer a reduced user experience because they tend to have smaller storage capacities and slower processors.

One can often address these criticisms by choosing operating systems and hardware manufacturers carefully.

Some netbooks come with hard drives, whereas others rely on the same SSDs that are used in digital cameras. Some run Linux because of its lightness, and some decide to more closely resemble their larger, more powerful counterparts by running Windows XP or 7.

No matter the manufacturer or operating system, however, current netbooks seem to be simply “just-enough” versions of the standard computers consumers have come to know and love.

There may yet be a new contender on the market that will offer a shift in this paradigm and, as with all paradigm shifts, a lot of controversy.

Google is developing Chrome OS, released as code to developers as “Chromium OS.”

The new OS is based on cloud computing principles and aims to create a kernel that optimizes Internet transactions, thus allowing computers to run web apps efficiently.

Based on the tried-and-true Linux kernel, Google hopes to provide a very browser-esque user interface that allows machines to efficiently take advantage of the “cloud” services Google proudly offers.

Boasting efficiency and light memory usage, it seems like a logical choice for netbooks and bargain-basement desktops.

As Seth H. Weintraub of puts it, Google wants “to own the netbook market” with the introduction of Chrome OS.

Weintraub says in his article “Google’s Chrome OS will make a good ‘second computer’” that Google Chrome OS will likely not provide a good alternative to the current desktop but may provide an interesting alternative to current netbook solutions.

Is it truly possible that Google Chrome OS will take over the netbook market?

First of all, a new operating system will probably take quite a bit of time to gain enough market share to officially “own” the netbook arena. Second, Google Chrome functions differently than Windows XP and Linux, thus prompting the possibility of a split in the netbook market. Such a split would render a “takeover” of the market meaningless.

Google Chrome OS cannot directly compete with existing Linux solutions and Microsoft Windows XP applications on netbooks, because Google is planning Chrome OS as a cloud system.

Linux and Windows XP systems are inherently designed for use with applications that reside directly on an individual machine’s hard drives or, in the case of many netbooks, solid-state storage devices.

The Chrome OS, meanwhile, will be subject to the good fortunes of cloud computing as a concept that, as articles across the Internet have indicated, is not necessarily guaranteed.

Companies remain somewhat skeptical of cloud computing, and many users are finding it difficult to fully go with the cloud, clinging on to some applications that are not cloud-enabled. Individuals who do not wish or are not able to fully switch to cloud computing will have no problem ignoring Chrome OS as a viable netbook alternative.

According to various opinions posted in the forum of comments to Weintraub’s article, the fortunes of Google Chrome OS will undoubtedly come down to personal choice.

Some users wish to remain using applications stored locally, whereas others, as one user posted, are already almost “100% web apps these days.” Those who appear to radiate the Internet could benefit greatly from a machine running Google’s Chrome OS.

So the verdict on Chrome OS will, unsurprisingly, be a complex one. Assuming that netbooks continue to be popular and in widespread use, the choice between cloud computing (i.e. Google Chrome OS) and the standard (i.e. Microsoft Windows XP, Windows 7 or Linux) will come down to a user’s preference and the device’s intended use.

If companies ultimately move to cloud computing en masse, Google Chrome OS will more than likely find itself with a healthy market share. If companies remain skeptical of cloud computing, Chrome OS may still be given a healthy market share because of popularity with individual users.

If neither business nor the individual user abandons the current paradigm of computing, Google Chrome OS may find itself struggling to rid itself of “experimental” status.

Google should therefore hope that Chrome the web browser and Chrome the OS will slowly change people’s perceptions of cloud computing to make it a viable alternative to the status quo.