Gist: Google is creating a thin client with their new netbook operating system Google Chrome OS, which will allow simple components to access Google’s services as applications. Google Chrome, as the base, is an already-advanced browser and web renderer. Google’s initiative may mean war with Microsoft: Google Chrome OS, developed enough, and with enough power to replace desktop applications, may replace the need for an OS as the powerhouse and instead put it in the cloud with Google services and clients being thin clients. Google may expand this to their Android handset system and then to many other interfaces.
Google Inc. (GOOG) announced their new initiative today, the Google Chrome OS. Based on the Google Chrome browser software, it is a light, mobile operating system for netbooks, due to be open-sourced Q4 2009, but due to release Q3-Q4 2010.
Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010. Because we’re already talking to partners about the project, and we’ll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve.
Yeah. We know exactly what Google wants to achieve: the thin client. A thin client provides a view and an input, and general processing and memory; however, the data storage, crunching, and application serving is done from a third party source, accessible through the internet. Netbooks represented a large surge in the thin client idea, building primarily upon inexpensive Intel (INTC) Atom processors, cheap memory, portability, and in some cases open-source Linux distributions such as Ubuntu.
However, Google Chrome OS may not just be “just another Linux distro” to power notebooks: its very premise makes it be based on the idea of a thin client, completely. GCOS, built upon the (relatively) advanced Google Chrome browser, powered by Webkit, offers many advanced application-like parallels. Not only does it allow for the use of the Canvas HTML element for advanced drawing capabilities inside the browser, but local data storage and more.
We’ve already seen web technologies as an OS in action. We’ve seen them starting with Google using XMLHttpRequest in Suggest and Maps, with Adaptive Path’s Jesse James Garrett’s coining of Ajax, then the replacement of desktop apps with web-based ones with Meebo and Google Docs, and recently with the release of Palm Inc.’s (PALM) Palm Pre device, based on WebOS.
There’s actually some interesting foreshadowing in Jesse James Garrett’s early speculations into the power of Ajax:
The same simplicity that enabled the Web’s rapid proliferation also creates a gap between the experiences we can provide and the experiences users can get from a desktop application. … That gap is closing. Take a look at Google Suggest… Now look at Google Maps. Google Suggest and Google Maps are two examples of a new approach to web applications that we at Adaptive Path have been calling Ajax.
Google will nearly eliminate the OS itself. Most of what people want in an OS can happen in a browser. Google has documents and collaboration down with Google Docs. Search down with Google itself, and Google Desktop for local search. Email and chat through Gmail. In the future, organization communications through Google Wave. Calendar and tasks through Google Calendar. Google has created the ultimate thin client system that allows for the browser to take over the OS.
Google’s master plan extends into the integration of the browser into the OS. Google might wage a war of the OS: not with Windows vs. Linux, but Windows vs. the Web OS. Google notes that current “operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web.” Apparently—the current operating systems aren’t enough for the future. Supplementation of the web with the OS is not enough. The OS must be immersed with the web.
And Google wishes to spearhead that immersion. That immersion will primarily be in the form of a thin client, with everything handled on the cloud, the client acting as solely a view of information and an input point. Through this, Google can essentially build this thin client interface into multiple points in reality, not the least being their mobile operating system Android.
Google is going down to the hardware and integrating the user’s own system with Google. And in the future, their mobile phones, and soon, perhaps a huge portion of their technological experience.
Disclosure: Mark Bao is the CEO of Avecora, an early-stage communications integration and consumer electronics firm.