Behold, The Googlification Continues - Or Does It?

Google will eventually take over the world. Oh, sure, we delude ourselves into believing otherwise, but deep down inside we know that one day, gLife will come out of beta.

Everyone thought the biggest news to come out of the Googleplex yesterday was the announcement that four of the company's most popular offerings — Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, and Google Talk — have left their long-held beta status behind, though the change appears to be mostly cosmetic, given the services well-established, if sometimes momentarily questioned, reliability. That news was, however, merely a foretaste of what was to come, as late last night the search giant revealed that it has even greater ambitions: to revolutionize the operating system.

According to the announcement, co-authored by Engineering Director Linus Upson and Product Management Vice President Sundar Pichai, Google believes that the operating systems currently on the market were "were designed in an era where there was no web," a fatal flaw, apparently, given the number of people who "live on the web," busily "searching for information, checking email, catching up on the news, shopping or just staying in touch with friends." Taking a cue — and the name — from it's 30,000,000+ strong web browser, Chrome, the company will develop an operating system to be christened Google Chrome OS.

The revelation is something of a pre-announcement, aimed at drumming up support — and, of course, publicity — for the offering. Like its Android mobile operating system and the Chrome browser, Google plans to Open Source the Chrome OS, and hopes the Open Source community will embrace it and actively assist in its development. Netbooks with the new OS are scheduled to appear sometime in the latter half of next year, an ambitious schedule to put together an entire operating system. Google says it is redesigning the "security architecture" to take viruses, malware, and security updates off of user's minds and plates.

The company says that while Chrome OS and Android — which is rapidly being ported to larger devices, including netbooks — will have some similarities, Chrome OS will be built to handle anything from netbooks to full desktops. They plan for the operating system to "start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds" and will "always run as fast as when [the users] first bought them," with a minimal interface centered around, you guessed it, the Chrome browser. The majority of the user's activities will take place online, no-doubt bearing tight integration with the aforementioned apps fresh out of beta.

When the grand announcement gets down to specs, however, it raises the question of whether "Chrome OS" is really a "new" operating system at all. "The software architecture is simple," it reads, "Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel."

Now, color us Linux geeks, but isn't that what those of us with more penguified personalities call a "Linux distribution"? The groundbreaking new features Google mentions are all fairly standard for Linux — fast boot times, including "instant on" Linux, updates that install all by themselves, and, of course, Linux's legendary security superiority.

There are already distributions — including one that, though the G in it's gOS stands for "Good" OS, could easily have been Google instead — that minimize traditional desktop applications and interfaces, including a number specifically designed for netbooks. As one reader we spoke with put it: "It is all the same - different bells and whistles, but it is the same bike. They took off the streamers and put baseball cards in the spokes instead."

Though we congratulate Google for wanting to make the user experience better and revolutionize computing, for using Linux to do it, and inviting the Open Source community to take the wheel, when it comes to creating a "brand new operating system" we're left asking "Where's the beef?"


Justin Ryan is a Contributing Editor for Linux Journal.


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Cloud Computing via Google

Reno's picture

I think Google is banking on "Cloud Computing" becoming the predominate way of doing things.
Since I have acquired a Netbook as my second computer, I've been turning to cloud computing more and more. It shines when you have 2 or 3 or more computers, since you don't have to save stuff to a thumb drive and move it over, you don't have to worry about losing your stuff in a system crash cause it's in the cloud (encrypted and safe). Sharing certain files with others and having them colaborate on the same project is a snap. Go Google!!
I just hope Google doesn't morph into another Microsoft.
Didn't they coin the phrase "Don't be evil!"?
Open Source is like Freedom. Greed is like The Dark Side.

who cares....

Anonymous pirate of software's picture

.....don't give 2 shits about linux or cloud computing....I'm sticking with windows and will updownsidegrade to windows 7 when it comes out, like the majority of computer users out there, yes windows will be around for a long long long time and will never lose market share.....give your heads a shake, there aint no money to be made for manufacturers of hard ware support for linux, the linux community is cheap and expects everything for free and will never pay for anything they can get for free.


alex stone's picture

If this shakes up manufacturers, and helps them rid themselves of their cowardice, then it may work out well, as long as Google enforce a "linux" standard, and not some modified bastardisation.
They're certainly big enough to do this.

I just have a lingering suspicion about their self stated opensource credentials.

Gentoo and Fluxbox here, and happy to have it.

"We are the Google..."

Cathode Ray's picture

We are the Google. Lower your firewalls and surrender your notebooks. We will add your software and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.
Just like those old times I'd say :-(.

New windowing system?

Anonymous's picture

A new windowing system?!?

They're replacing X-Windows? I know it's old and creaky, but that's a pretty big project.

Yes, big project.... But

dele's picture

Yes, big project.... But that may not be such a big deal when you have many the little bits of it already in place.... Plus the big BUCKs to back it up.

Google is...

Anonymous's picture

Google is irrelevant! Google is EVIL! GOOGLE must DIE!
Seriously though, whatever Google does makes no difference to me, as I don't use their search engine, and I don't use any of their other products either.

So for me, this is non-news. Move along, nothing to see here.

Your input is valuable to

Anonymous's picture

Your input is valuable to us.

See that? That was sarcasm.

Does it work offline?

Frank Burton's picture

The big piece of this that really will make it work is google gears. This will allow you to continue to use the google apps from the web without an internet connection. This would pretty much be useless if you didn't have an internet connection all the time. Google Gears will make this work without an internet connection and that is the real break through in my opinion. As far as other applications are concerned if they take a queue from apple or even the android app store this should not be an issue for them.

It works until ...

harriseldon's picture

This is all great and wonderful, but how will Google change the perception about running a computer?

Eventually a person will want to install some software bought from a store and it will not work. Wine is a great project, but I do not see how Google will make it seamless. Their only chance is do what has happened with cell phones and netbooks; they should re-purpose the notebook/desktop. They cannot market it as a desktop replacement for everyday use, instead they need a new category of computer that is web-centered. This will change the user's perception on what software "should" work. Otherwise people will go back to Windows XP when their first 3rd party software installation fails. We need to change the paradigm on how software is installed on the computer before this or any other non-Windows distribution really takes off for the masses.

Re: Google Is The Walmart Of The Internet

John and Dagny Galt's picture

Google doesn't need to "change the perception about running a computer" because the cellphone/PDA industry and vendors have ALREADY done that for them.

Few people want to be tied to a desktop machine anymore and many are shedding their laptops for netbooks.

Once technology finally overcomes "voice-to-text" and "voice commands" to the satisfaction of the masses, then the trusty keyboard/pad will no longer be necessary.

We're all Cyborgs in the Singularity that is the GoogleWeb.

There can be no resistance to, and no refusal of, the Singularity Collective Hive.

All resistance will be destroyed and eliminated in continued reverence of the Singularity!

At least until Snake Plissken shuts down the planet.


John and Dagny Galt
Atlas Shrugged, Owner's Manual For The Universe!(tm)


DId i just see voice to text up there???

dele's picture

No Voice to text please... it's iritating, annoying technology

RE: It works until...

Anonymous's picture

The problem with the current state of Linux, --we're really talking about the UI, so we're talking Gnome and KDE-- is that there are too many distributions with too many different window managers. Developing code for "Linux" means developing for 15 to 20 different distributions and window managers, while developing for Windows involves basically two, maybe three different versions. If Google were to develop a "standard" that ISVs could develop applications for, it could make it easier. Intuit, for instance, could develop a Google Chrome OS version of Quicken. Admittedly, Ubuntu is nearly the de facto Linux desktop OS, but not quite. SuSE, for instance, is more popular in Europe, etc. SO a single common Linux UI to develop for could be significant.

It may be a difference-maker. I was holding out hope that Intel's Moblin would be the the one, but this announcement may change that. Only time will tell.

who cares. talk about

Anonymous's picture

who cares. talk about ruining my day. all these articles every where you go about google this and google that. how annoying. after the first 12 million people blog about it why does everyone else have to.

Has Google figured out a way

Anonymous's picture

Has Google figured out a way to have Chrome OS installed by default instead of MS Windows? Android is popular because it is installed by default on phones and other mobile devices. Until then MS Windows holds all of the cards and Chrome OS will just be another distro. As long as MS can link grants from Gates' foundation to a country's use of Windows, establish it's own standards and impose them on the rest of the world, etc. it's not even a contest. In what other area do you have to pay for an upgrade to fix the flaws; live with, and have people actually defend as good, a buggy OS with virii, etc, etc. I wish Google luck, but they have bitten off more than they can chew.


Pyro's picture

I agree with NeoStrider on this one. my first thought was: there are still so many people that don't know what I'm talking about... "a computer that works without windows?" Google has the power and stigmata needed to push Linux mainstream. Meaning better hardware support, more awareness, leading to more marketshare, and possibly better overall support (btw don't tell Qwest that you're a Linux user, they'll blacklist you for support). Hopefully it's better than gOS, surely it will be Linux like only Google can do.

Linux for the masses

Daniel "NeoStrider" Monteiro's picture

Shush! this is our chance to sneak linux into gazillion of computers!
And then, when they least expect, BAM!
we start a X11 and get our beloved desktops back =-P

jokes asside, this might be a blessing in that hardware support for linux will start to shine.

What do you mean, "jokes"?

Epicanis's picture

Honestly, that's more or less what I was thinking, no "joke" about it. Mere "consumers" should be able to operating on Chrome OS just fine, but it'll be really nice to have ready access to lots of inexpensive portable Linux machines with just a little bit of install-hacking for those of us who are more like "participants" than "consumers".