Google threatens to drink Microsoft's milkshake. Or not.

>> Thursday, July 09, 2009

I think I recently mentioned that one of my pet peeves is people referring to an applications suite as an "operating system." I mention this simply because it sort of explains my annoyance at a bit of silly hoopla this week, namely the misleading and essentially false announcement that Google is releasing a "new" operating system for netbooks to compete with Microsoft Windows. They aren't.

Well, they are putting the Google logo on an operating system, yes. And they are competing with Microsoft by doing so. But the Chrome "OS" isn't new in any sense of the word--as others have pointed out, the Google Chrome OS is a Linux distro. From the horse's mouth itself, The Official Google Blog:

Google Chrome OS will run on both x86 as well as ARM chips and we are working with multiple OEMs to bring a number of netbooks to market next year. 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. All web-based applications will automatically work and new applications can be written using your favorite web technologies. And of course, these apps will run not only on Google Chrome OS, but on any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux thereby giving developers the largest user base of any platform.

I.e., Google Chrome is a Linux distro that uses a lot of cloud-based applications. In other other words, I'm guessing that you can probably get a fair simulation of the "Chrome OS experience" by loading a light distro like DSL, installing Chrome, and running Google Docs.

Conversely, is there going to be any reason (aside from the hardware limitations of netbooks) you can't subvert the shiny Chrome "experience" by installing the Chrome OS and then installing Firefox and, say, I'm thinking, uh, no.

I like Google (mostly). (Pssst--and thank you again, el Googster, for making Blogger available for free; big hug, guys.) And I'm all for things that spread the use of Linux. Google making Linux more accessible and less-intimidating is, methinks, a good thing. But it's also not exactly explosive news. This really is the emperor turning out to be parading commando. I don't suppose "Google Announces Linux Distribution" makes for as nifty a headline as "Google Threatens To Drink Microsoft's Milkshake," so I know why this is being pimped up the way it is, but it's irritating. And you have to wonder, too, if it will backfire--one can imagine Linux developers and users being irritated at Google's me-too-ism and Windows users being frightened away if Microsoft points out the obvious (something which isn't guaranteed--based on the ads they've been running, I don't think any of the marketing firms Microsoft has used to date could sell oxygen to a dying astronaut).

So I don't mind if Google succeeds. Just remember that if you try the Chrome "OS" and don't like it, Shawn Powers and the folks at Linux Journal can show you how to install a new GUI over Chrome without any losses of data or major changes to your core OS.


MWT Thursday, July 9, 2009 at 5:54:00 PM EDT  

Hrm. If it was originally a Linux distro, why'd it come out for Windows first?

Eric Thursday, July 9, 2009 at 7:02:00 PM EDT  

That's the Chrome browser you're thinking of, MWT. The "big" announcement this week was that Google is releasing an operating system, or (as it turns out) an "operating system," since it turns out the "new" Chrome OS is, apparently, a Linux kernel running the Chrome browser as a graphic user interface.

Presumably the separate Chrome browser will continue to be available for Windows, Apple and Linux.

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