Perhaps, but it’s too early to tell.
Earlier this year in July, Google announced on their blog that they were building a new operating system, The Google Chrome Operating System, or ChromeOS for short. Yesterday, Google announced on their blog that they are open sourcing ChromeOS and they published a whole bunch of videos to YouTube describing their vision and released their source code to the public.
Google’s idea, in a nutshell, is that they believe there is demand for an operating system that is really fast, really secure and exists purely to facilitate Internet access. All user created data is stored in the cloud, in fact on Google’s servers. All applications are web applications. So the only thing installed on the computer is the operating system. Everything else is accessed via the Internet.
Is such an operating system competition for Windows, Linux, Apple Macs?
Well, for starters, Google’s ChromeOS is not going to be designed to run on any old white box pc, like Windows and Linux are. ChromeOS is going to have custom firmware and a narrowly defined hardware specification, because that is necessary to achieve its goals of fast boot and security. Businesses which deployed ChromeOS based workstations, would have to be comfortable with storing their data on Google’s servers instead of their own, unless Google builds a ChromeOS server, but that is not currently envisaged.
So the market for ChromeOS seems to be people who are prepared to accept a machine that is very locked down, runs a limited set of applications and is tightly integrated with Google’s online services.
Personally, it doesn’t hold much appeal for me because I want to be able to play games on my PC for relaxation. Yes, it is true that a lot of what I do depends on having an Internet connection, but not everything. If my Internet connection is unavailable, I still have access to all my data, which allows me to continue developing applications, for instance. It seems to me, that ChromeOS is so tied to the Net, that if it loses it’s connection then the box running it reverts to being a giant paperweight.
If ChromeOS was developed to run on a wider range of hardware, store its data on user chosen servers and allow continued productivity if the Net connection is lost, it would be of greater interest.
This Wired article (Why Google Should Cool It With Chrome OS) agrees with me and suggests that Google ChromeOS should be engineered to co-exist with other operating systems on NetBooks so that people can enjoy a hybrid experience.