In a couple of hours, Google is going to share more details about its upcoming operating system Chrome OS at an event in Mountain View that will most likely be covered from start to finish by TechCrunch writers (and then some) as well as a slew of other media outlets. Jolicloud, that other OS for netbooks that is completely built for people who live and work on the Web from the ground up, has in the meantime been running fine on my own netbook for the past couple of months.
So in light of the upcoming GOOG buzz, Jolicloud founder Tariq Krim got in touch with me to share some of the things he and his team have been working on. Since the subject lies rather close to the premise of John Gruber's great The OS Opportunity blog post, it's worth reading that before continuation.
Krim realizes full well that he's going to have to tell a pretty compelling story to get people to pay attention to what Jolicloud is building, considering the appeal Google has in terms of branding and its history of putting stuff out there that are impressive on a technological level. Even if Google's OS proves to be ‘good enough', it'll be tough for Jolicloud to compete with. But it certainly helps a lot to have a great product that's unique in its own regards, and the Jolicloud OS is definitely worth a look if you agree that the Web is “the most important software platform in the world today”, as Gruber puts it.
Jolicloud is currently a bit of a drag to install because it involves putting the installer on a USB stick and try to get it up and running that way for every type of netbook out there. The release of Jolicloud Express, however, is going to change all that: you'll be able to simply download the system from the startup's website, install and run it alongside whatever else you have as OS on your netbook (usually Windows XP or 7). It will keep the Windows partition and data safe, so you can always switch back to Windows, but if you're anything like me chances are you won't. Jolicloud Express will be introduced at the Le Web conference in December.
Jolicloud's Pre-Beta release, which is currently going out to testers and will be the new upgrade for all users next week, will support native resolution for Intel Atom z500-series netbooks (including the Dell Mini 10, Mini 12, the Acer Aspire One 751, Asus EeePC 1101 and many more) with the GMA500 chipset. I'd explain why that's a rather big deal, but Jolicloud's Adam McDaniel blogged about the how and why much more eloquently and in much more detail than I ever could. (McDaniel, by the way, is the guy who cooked up EeePC support for Ubuntu and built the Array Linux kernel.)
Biggest plus of Poulsbo (GMA 500 codename) support: compatibility with 720p HD video.
Jolicloud will be debuting something else at Le Web next month: their new HTML5 launcher that was built in collaboration with several key Mozilla developers. The main goal is to give people a way to synchronize as many netbooks as they want with their Jolicloud account, including preferences, installed apps, and so on.
The team is also constantly finetuning the user interface to give users the best possible user experience on a relatively small screen, something as a user I can only acknowledge and applaud. Among other things, Jolicloud is working on implementation of the Activity Streams standard, which essentially means social networking activity will become an integral part of the operating system rather than something bolted on top.
Also in the labs: the idea of providing a Jolicloud-powered netbook with a custom Twitter account, enabling users to converse and interact with their streams even if they're not actually in front of their computers.
Evidently, Google Chrome OS is going to get all the buzz today, and however well-deserved it's worth noting that there are startups already working on the next generation of operating systems that can already be installed and tested on netbooks today. Even if Jolicloud never achieves the success the Paris-based team – which is now 12 people strong – and its high-profile investors are hoping for, I think that's admirable and worth highlighting.