Day: July 8, 2009

Rethinking OS

Do you remember the old saying that an elephant is just a mouse built by a committee?  Each year, we replace computers in our educational system.  It’s always a shame; when the computers that we’re replacing were new, they were the fastest, most powerful boxes in the system.  In their infancy, they were highly sought commodities but towards their later use, they are avoided at all costs.

They just get slower and slower as we add more applications to them.  The applications themselves evolve on newer technology and specifications.  The speeds on replacement computers allow the applications and operating system to run faster but they are still based on a common image deployed to the computers.  It’s interesting and certainly academic to watch machines, side by each, boot and get ready to do their thing at noticeably different speeds.  As applications and security updates are applied, over time, the machines get more sluggish to the point where they become the black sheep of technology.  With current technologies, it’s inevitable.  I dread rebooting my computer and it’s only a couple of years old, running Vista, and pretty powerful.

Yesterday, Google announced the development of the Chrome OS.  Many of us have speculated on a development of this ever since the release of the Chrome browser with its support for Google Gears.  Even though it was labelled a “new browser for Windows”, the Chrome browser does a lot of things differently.  It loads quicker, renders images quicker, and just feels different.  Tear off browsing tabs, incognito mode, are all features of a browser with a more contemporary approach.

Image via Wikipedia

Above and beyond the feel, it affirmed the notion that you don’t need to install yet another application to get more productivity for your computer.  As long as you have internet connectivity, you can be productive using Google Documents.  When you remove the need to install software on your computer, it should always run at roughly the same speed.  Sure, you’ll need to add some plug-ins for functionality, but booting, running, executing, should all remain at the same level of performance.

In its post, the Chrome OS will start running on Netbooks.  These are the lesser powered machines that fly when running Linux today and are designed to perform best when operating with web based applications.  A successful launch there may see it move to the more powerful machines shortly thereafter.  But, couldn’t you already do this with Windows and the Macintosh OS?  In theory, yes.  After all, the web is just the web and there are versions of the Chrome browser already available.  And, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer browse the web just nicely.  The difference is that the Chrome OS will be free.

Even in today’s market, when you buy a Netbook, there are two price levels for the same product.  Buy it with Linux and you get one price; buy it with Windows and you pay another.  It’s not hard to see where this is headed.  Microsoft will be in for a huge fight to make Windows 7 viable given the other factors.  It won’t go away; businesses still love their Sharepoints and their locally developed and modified applications that require Internet Explorer.  But, if Chrome OS is successful, huge inroads will be made, particularly for the home user.

More options in the operating system market create more options for the consumer.  Chrome OS will evolve as another Linux distribution with the internet giant behind it.  There will be a big following and with web applications getting better and better, the following will be very happy.

We’re going to be in for a fight if this all pans out and maybe that operating system mouse will remain a mouse.

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