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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Can Chrome OS Take On Windows?

Google just recently announced a laptop that runs solely on it's Chrome operating system.  That's right . . . no Microsoft Windows.  The concept is designed around the notion that people primarily live on the web when using PC's today.  So Google designed a laptop that is basically it's Chrome web browser.  For those that have used Google Chrome browser you can not deny that it's fast and simple.  But you can't buy this laptop (called the CR-48).  It's only available to reviewers that Google approves through an application process and they send one for free.  I applied, but haven't heard anything yet.

So what's the big deal?  Well, first by stripping away all of the stuff that goes along with a normal operating system and breaking it down to simply a web browser you get a few added benefits:
  • Blazing fast startup which is said to be around 14 seconds.
  • Very simple user interface.  Just sign into your Google account and you are up and running.  There is a 'Guest' option too.
  • No need for expensive or problematic software installs.  
  • No need to worry about data loss if the computer crashes.  Everything is done and stored on the web.  So if the computer breaks, you just sign onto another one and away you go.  This is 'the cloud' you keep hearing about.  
  • Google Web Apps and extensions are also a nice feature.  The apps are designed around the mobile apps concept and provide for targeted uses and a more rich reading experience for news.  Extensions are add-ons to the browser itself which provide some great functionality such as easily sharing with others, screen captures, etc.
  • There is a 16GB solid-state hard-drive which I am assuming allows for offline viewing and work.
  • Outside of a laptop, this type of OS would be great on a tablet which Google has already been working on and it will be interesting to see if it ever becomes reality.
So what's the downfall?  The biggest hurdle at this juncture in my opinion (and most others) is the comfort level of the masses to store all of their information online.  Granted I find myself doing this more and more all the time because the benefits are great.  I can leave off on one computer and access the same work on another by simply logging into my account whether it be a document, spreadsheet, or presentation with Google Docs.  The pitfall to this is, I have to have access to the Internet on the other computer or tablet which is usually not an issue.  And there are many that still need specialized software which will not run on this type of device.

So will Chrome OS impact Windows?  If PC-makers begin offering this type of option it will definitely bite into Windows hold on the PC industry.  I don't see all users, or even a majority, moving from a Windows or Apple OS type of system.  But this will be another competitive option for users.  Windows and Apple OS computers still provide huge benefits for most users who need specialized software such as graphic artists and business users.  So Chrome OS will not be the proverbial "Windows-killer", but it will be competitive in the personal user arena in my opinion. 

So who could benefit from this type of OS?   A few I can think of:
  • Students.  Students need low-cost computing that allows them access to the web and creating documents.  What a great device for schools too. 
  • Personal users that just want low-cost and quick computing. 
  • Non-profits such as churches that need to utilize collaboration amongst volunteers.  Providing this type of set up and equipment reduces a lot of costs and improves communication dramatically. 
Take a look at the video below to see an overview of the Chrome OS system and benefits:
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