Google Chrome: Redefining The Operating System

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It’s hard to type a blog post when one hand is being used to pat myself on the back.

Last year I wrote a post about the just launched Chrome browser titled Meet Chrome, Google’s Windows Killer. From that article:

Chrome is nothing less than a full on desktop operating system that will compete head on with Windows…Expect to see millions of web devices, even desktop web devices, in the coming years that completely strip out the Windows layer and use the browser as the only operating system the user needs.

One representative response to my quote above, from The Register: “In no way can this statement be construed to make sense, and I’m not just being a pedantic asshole here. Fortunately, El Reg readers are with it enough to know that you need a proper OS before you can have a browser.”

Purists complained that a browser isn’t actually an operating system, and brought up mundane issues about hardware drivers, memory and processor management, and other red herrings. Sure, they were right – the Chrome browser isn’t an operating system. It is, you could say, sans the bag of drivers needed to meet the definition. Still, the writing was on the wall – Google quite clearly saw Chrome as an operating system that competes with Windows.

Fast forward to today. The Chrome browser now has 30 million active users, says Google, and tracking services say it has 6% or so market share. Not bad for a browser that’s less than a year old.

And now, WOW. Google just bolted a big ol’ bag of drivers (also known as the Linux kernel) to Chrome and are calling it the Google Chrome Operating System. It’s going to be hard for people to continue to deny its operating systemness now.

The new OS will focus entirely on the web: “The software architecture is simple — Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel. For application developers, the web is the platform.” What that means is this. The browser is the platform. The browser is the UI.

Now, finally, even the tech purists can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Windows is hardware management plus an application platform, and we call that an OS. Chrome OS is hardware management plus an application platform (the browser), and we call that an OS, too.

Don’t worry about those desktop apps you think you need. Office? Meh. You’ve got Zoho and Google Apps. You won’t miss office. Chrome plus Gears plus Google Wave plus HTML 5 and web platforms like Flash and Silverlight all combine into a single wonderful computing device. The Internet Is Everything. All the OS has to do is boot the damn computer, get me to a browser as fast as possible and then stay the hell out of the way.

Chrome will do just that. And it will be free, unlike Windows. Forget the netbooks, which Google is targeting initally. We’ll see PCs of all types being sold by the major manufacturers as soon as Google gets this out of beta next year. Microsoft has a very serious competitive threat to the core of their revenues. Every Chrome computer bought won’t have Windows and won’t have Office. That must send chills down the spine of the guys up in Redmond. But hey, at least they can now point to Google when the antitrust guys come knocking. Someone other than them are bundling the operating system and browser into one neat package.

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