Technologizer posts about Google Chrome OS

Can a Chrome OS Tablet Make It Without Apps?

By  |  Posted at 12:31 pm on Wednesday, August 18, 2010


The list of present, future, and speculative iPadversaries I compiled last week wasn’t comprehensive–for instance, I didn’t include Samsung’s Galaxy Tab. And it’s growing more incomplete every day. Download Squad, for instance, is reporting a rumor that Google and Verizon will release a tablet on November 26th. Unlike the scads of Google-powered tablets that will run the Android OS, this one is supposedly powered by the still-unreleased Chrome OS.

I don’t know if there’s anything to Download Squad’s story, but it would be stunning if Chrome OS didn’t wind up on one or more tablets in the next few months. When Google announced the OS thirteen months ago, it looked like a glimpse of one potential future for personal computing. But the intended hardware–clamshell case with physical keyboard–no longer feels like it’s part of the next wave of anything. And another aspect of the OS–its dependence on the Web–feels like it might be part of the next wave after the next wave, not the immediate future.

The obvious point of reference for a Chrome OS tablet is the iPad. But from everything we know about Chrome OS so far, there’s one crucial point of differentiation: iPads are all about local apps, and Chrome OS (like the JooJoo) is designed to subsist entirely on Web apps. (Google is readying a Chrome OS app store, but the apps in question will all live on the Internet.)

If Verizon is involved with a Chrome OS tablet, it’ll presumably have built-in 3G connectivity, which means that the notion of it living off Internet services isn’t completely screwy. But I’m convinced that when it comes to mobile devices, apps are where it’s at–for the next couple of years, at least–and that a platform that doesn’t even try to play catchup with Apple’s iOS would be operating at a severe disadvantage.

Your thoughts?

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Why Chrome OS Needs Solitaire and Freecell

By  |  Posted at 5:35 pm on Thursday, June 24, 2010


To get a sense of how Chrome OS is coming along, TechCrunch’s MG Siegler checked in on the Google Code page for Chromium OS, the development version of Google’s budding operating system. He found a bunch of recent changes, like a cleaner interface, a description of the boot process and a debate over the treatment of ZIP files.

But what I want to focus on is gaming. To quote Siegler:

A big issue Google has been thinking about for a long time is “addictive” offline games that people can play with Chrome OS machines. Initial ideas included: Solitaire, Poker, Tower Defense, Color flood game, Minesweeper-style, Suduko, Bejewled-style. … Work continues on this.

Peering into the conversation thread for games, it’s not clear how quickly the initiative is moving along, but I’m struck by how Google would benefit from these kinds of offline games in the finished version of Chrome OS.

Casual games such as Solitaire aren’t the most glorious computing tasks imaginable — actually, they can be downright detrimental — but they are an important part of the PC experience. In 2005, the triumvirate of Spider Solitaire, Klondike and Freecell were reported to account for half of all game-playing time. As VentureBeat pointed out in 2007, more than 400 million people had played Solitaire on Windows PCs, an I’m sure the number has ballooned since then.

But why would Chrome OS, essentially a portal to the Web, need offline versions of these games when there’s no shortage of online gaming portals? Because it’s the dead-simple, anywhere access that makes Windows Solitaire so alluring. Something similar for Chrome OS would be a beacon of familiarity in an unfamiliar environment. Want people to feel at home in a new operating system? Let them play Solitaire.


Please, Google, No 3D Android Interface Just Yet

By  |  Posted at 9:47 am on Monday, May 3, 2010


If you love a company and Google buys it, worry. That’s been my conclusion lately. And the latest evidence is the company’s acquisition of BumpTop, the company behind a cool 3D desktop interface. So far, the news for BumpTop fans is bad: The product is being discontinued and even people who have paid for it have to deal with that nasty concept “end-of-life support.”

I’m curious about Google’s intentions for the technology. It hasn’t said anything so far, but the most logical assumption is that it intends to use what it’s bought in Android and/or Chrome OS.

Continue reading this story…

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Run Chrome OS Like a Native

By  |  Posted at 12:22 am on Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Run in a virtualized machine, Google’s Chrome OS feels pretty much like Chrome-the-browser–which makes the whole exercise kind of pointless, since it’s a lot harder to install and run a virtualized OS than a browser. But now f0lks are trying Chrome OS as a native, non-virtualized OS, a simple, non-invasive experiment if you install it on a thumb drive you can boot your PC from. Engadget’s Paul Miller has given it a go and is enthusiastic about the OS’s speed and the overall experience. He’s got a quick video review, and links to the BitTorrented copy of the OS you need to try this yourself. (I haven’t yet, but will try to fit it into my busy schedule for the rest of the week: traveling to a turkey-eating location, eating turkey, and resting from eating turkey.)



Is the Cloud All You Need?

By  |  Posted at 5:42 pm on Thursday, November 19, 2009

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When you think about it, every netbook to date has been misnamed: They’ve run traditional operating systems, and worked just fine even when you didn’t have an Internet connection. But netbooks based on Google’s Chrome OS will be different: At best, they’re going to have very limited functionality when you’re not online. Whether they turn out to be wildly popular or a legendary flop, they’re something new. They’re…netbooks!

So let’s keep this T-Poll short and sweet:


Chrome OS: What We Know and Don’t Know

By  |  Posted at 2:06 pm on Thursday, November 19, 2009


Four months ago, Google announced it was working on an operating system for netbooks called Chrome OS. Today, at a press event at the Googleplex which I attended, the company demonstrated it in public for the first time and provided more details about its plans.

Nothing Google had to say came as a great revelation–it largely confirmed and expounded upon the goals laid out in the initial blog post on the project. Chrome OS will emphasize speed, simplicity, and security; it’ll store everything in the cloud; it’ll come preinstalled on netbooks. And it’s an open-source product with a Linux heart beating deep inside.

After the jump, my first stab at collecting known and unknown details about the OS–additions, corrections, and questions welcome.

Continue reading this story…

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Google Reveals Chrome OS

I’m at the Googleplex this morning, where Google is showing off Chrome OS for the first time. More details to come, but I’m tweeting the news fast and furious at the moment–follow me at Twitter to see the news as fast as I learn it.

Posted by Harry McCracken at 10:28 am

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Chrome OS: The Great Unveiling

By  |  Posted at 4:45 am on Wednesday, November 18, 2009


On Thursday morning, Google is holding a press event that sounds like it’ll be the closest thing to an official introduction that the company’s Chrome OS for netbooks has gotten to date:

While this will be more of a technical announcement, we will be showing a few demos that will definitely be of interest to you as well as a complete overview and our launch plans for next year. We’ll also hold a Q&A session with members of the Google Chrome OS team following the presentation and demos.

I’ll be at the Googleplex for the briefing, and will blog it here just as quickly as I can. I’m still recovering from compiling my Internet Explorer 9 wish list, so I’m not going to muse on what I’d like to see in Chrome OS, or guess at what it’s likely to involve. But would any of you like to take a stab at it?

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Chrome OS: Imminent?

By  |  Posted at 10:27 am on Friday, November 13, 2009


Google Chrome OSTechCrunch’s Michael Arrington is reporting that Google plans to release an early version of its Chrome OS netbook operating system next week. It’s presumably a very early version, since Google says that machines running Chrome OS won’t arrive until the second half of next year.

Google says that Chrome OS will be Linux-based, Web-centric, and designed to eliminate installation and security headaches. Other than that, though, it hasn’t had much to say about the OS. (Among the major remaining questions: Just how useful will a Chrome OS netbook be when it’s not connected to the Internet?) Consequently, it’s been hard to have much of an opinion at all about the product other than that it should be fun to see what happens as Google launches yet another salvo at Microsoft. Stay tuned for some answers, I hope…

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The Ongoing Unfulfilled Promise of Gears

By  |  Posted at 12:17 pm on Friday, July 17, 2009


Gears LogoI persist in believing that we don’t know enough about Google’s Chrome OS to either love the idea or hate it. But this I know: If Chrome OS netbooks only work when they’ve got an active Internet connection, they’ll make no sense at all. The day may come when Internet access is available everywhere and everywhere. But for now, computers need to provide some level of functionality even when they’re cut off from the Net.

I’m assuming that Google wouldn’t dispute that and is building a Chrome OS that will work offline in one fashion or another. Which got me thinking about a Google project that’s both one of my favorites and a major disappointment: Gears.

When Google announced in 2007 that it was developing a framework to help Web services run even when the Web wasn’t available, my PC World pals and I got so excited that we named Gears as the year’s most innovative product. Then another few months passed, and I got worried that the Web wasn’t jumping on the Gears bandwagon as quickly as I’d hoped it would.

Gears is now more than two years old, and the list of services that support it remains remarkably short. Actually, I’m not sure if there is an official list of Gears-friendly services: Google’s Gears site refers to a “select group” of services, but doesn’t mention them. In this case, “select” is presumably a synonym for “short.”  The Wikipedia page for Gears mentions fifteen Gears-enabled services, six of which are from Google itself. For the most part, they don’t replicate all their Web functionality within an offline browser–even Gmail, which may have the neatest Gears implementation to date, offers a reduced set of features.

Making Web services work sans Web is, clearly, really hard. Even for a company with as many smart people and resources as Google (and Gears is an open-source project, so it’s not even limited by the amount of attention Google is able to devote to it). I’m still a Gears fan, and I’m still hopeful that Gears will turn out to be a late bloomer rather than a cool idea that never caught on. For now, though, it’s proof that Web technologies still benefit mightily from having access to the Web.

As far as I know, Google hasn’t said what role Gears plays in Chrome OS. It’s a safe bet that it’s part of the OS, and that Gears-enabled services will work on Chrome OS netbooks. But does it provide Chrome OS with its only offline features? We just don’t know. Chrome OS is based on a Linux kernel, so it’s also entirely possible that it’ll have some level of support for Linux apps. Any guesses?

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We Know Almost Nothing About Chrome OS

By  |  Posted at 8:44 am on Friday, July 10, 2009


chromeosDaring Fireball’s John Gruber has an excellent post up on Chrome OS. He’s skeptical and critical. But most of all, he wants Google to put up or shut up: “I like facts, demos, and best of all, shipping products. I don’t like vague promises,” he says.

And that’s the thing about Chrome OS: Google announced it without telling the world enough to allow us to form coherent opinions about it. If it has a fresh, inventive, and useful interface, it’ll be a lot more interesting than if it’s a reduced-functionality knock-off of Windows or OS X. But we just don’t know. If it’s autonomous enough to stay useful even when you’re not connected, it’ll be a lot more interesting than if it’s crippled by the lack of an Internet connection. But we just don’t know. If Google intends to make it possible to install Chrome OS on a variety of hardware, it’ll be more interesting than if it only works on a handful of netbooks. But we just don’t know. And so on.

There’s no law that a company needs to wait to announce a product until it’s ready to discuss it in detail. Conspiracy theories abound about why Google started talking about Chrome OS when it did. I’m not hazarding any guesses about the timing. But I do know that the only bottom line on Chrome OS that makes much sense right now is “Well, it could be interesting.”

Oh, and another thing we just don’t know about Chrome OS: When Google plans to show it to us, rather than describe it in general terms…

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Google’s Chrome OS Security Claims: Idiotic?

By  |  Posted at 11:37 am on Thursday, July 9, 2009


Among the things that Google says about its upcoming Chrome OS is that it’s going to shine from a security standpoint:

And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.

IDG News Service’s Grant Gross talked to security guru Bruce Schneier, who isn’t just skeptical about Google’s promises–he’s downright insulting:

Bruce Schneier, the chief security technology officer at BT, scoffed at Google’s promise. “It’s an idiotic claim,” Schneier wrote in an e-mail. “It was mathematically proved decades ago that it is impossible — not an engineering impossibility, not technologically impossible, but the 2+2=3 kind of impossible — to create an operating system that is immune to viruses.”

Like much of what Google has said about Chrome OS so far, its claims about security are pretty darn vague, which leaves us on the outside who try to fact-check them at a disadvantage. It doesn’t say that the OS is virus- and malware-free–just that folks “won’t have to deal with” these threats. I “don’t have to deal with” viruses and malware on my Mac in the sense that I’ve never been infected. But that’s not the same thing as the OS being invulnerable. And while Google might be confident that it’s building something that won’t ever require Windows-style constant patching, I can’t quite believe it’s saying that there are no circumstances under which Chrome OS might need a security fix, period.

We still know very little about just how much of Chrome OS and users’ data will reside on the netbook, and how much will live remotely on Google’s servers. Maybe the local OS won’t do much more than boot the computer and provide drivers and a rendering engine. Maybe all user files will be stored in the cloud. If so, it’s possible that Chrome OS will be radically safer than traditional desktop OSes.

Even so, Schneier’s surely right that it’s impossible to write an OS that’s 100.000000% impervious to viruses. As long as computing involves the fallible devices known as human beings, there’s a chance that somebody will unwittingly allow a particularly piece of software onto the system.

Here’s a way of looking at it: In the post I quote at the top of this story, Google makes reference to the Chrome browser when touting the security of Chrome OS. Chrome the browser is indeed well-done from a security standpoint, but that doesn’t mean that Google hasn’t had to patch up holes. If Chrome-the-OS is as safe as the browser, it’ll be a point in its favor. But it won’t give users a license to fall asleep at the wheel.

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A Little More Chrome OS Knowledge

Google has published a FAQ on its Chrome OS project. It contains the minimum number of questions and answers necessary to qualify as a Frequently Asked Questions list–two. We now know that Chrome OS will be free (it would have been startling if it wasn’t). And we know that Google is working with Acer, Adobe, Asus, Freescale, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Qualcomm, and Texas Instruments. Presumably Acer, Asus, HP, and Lenovo will make Chrome OS netbooks; Adobe will make stuff like Acrobat, AIR, and Flash happen; and Freescale, Qualcomm, and TI will collaborate with Google on chip support.

The big news here is the lineup of major computer manufacturers who are on board. That doesn’t guarantee anything–Google’s Android mobile OS has been embraced by multiple major phone companies, and it’s still getting off to a somewhat slow start–but it’s still impressive. And given that it’ll be a year at the soonest before any Chrome OS netbooks show up, it’s entirely possible that other manufacturers will hop on board before launch.

Posted by Harry McCracken at 4:43 pm


5Words for Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

By  |  Posted at 11:10 am on Wednesday, July 8, 2009

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5wordsSpecial all-Chrome OS edition!

Why Chrome OS will matter.

Chrome OS? We’ve got Ubuntu.

Will Chrome OS annoy Apple?

Chrome OS, potential privacy threat.

Does the world need it?

Will Microsoft respond on Monday?

The big winner: smartbooks. (Smartbooks?)

Not your father’s OS war.

Hey, Joe Trippi linked here.