Don’t underestimate Google Chrome OS, or Google for that matter

This is somewhat a response to the post “Let’s all take a deep breath and get some perspective” which criticizes Google mostly on the basis of the “failures” of Android and Chrome. But also, everyone is talking these days about Google Chrome OS, and how it is a silly idea. Is that so?

Android

First of all let’s start with some basics: phones take years to develop, Google Android’s first release was on September 2008. Do people seriously think the fact that there are very few phones running Android says anything at all? Not even a year has passed! Also, there was a public statement saying that there will be 18-20 Android phones by the end of the year… that’s right 20.

Also, I personally believe that the 48 members of the Open Handset Alliance are not idling waiting for their companies to be ruined in this economically dangerous time. Their best hope is to put all the chips on Google Android, and they are probably either doing, or planning, just that.

Maybe, just maybe, it would make sense to criticize Android after it has played it’s strongest cards, and not before.

Chrome

It is hard to measure the success of a browser but a conservative figure says that it has taken at least 1% of the global market, that might not seem like a lot, but it’s enough to put it on the 4th place. The browser is less than one year old, and it’s already figuring among the most popular browsers.

Yet some people say it’s a failure, that nobody is using it. Well, compared to Firefox surely much less people are using Chrome, but still it’s less than a year old, most of my bug reports on Firefox are at least twice as old, and some even older. On the other hand, it’s actually nice to see my bug reports on Chromium fixed after weeks.

Not to mention that Chrome is using WebKit, a technology many players (Apple, Nokia, GNOME, Adium, etc.) chose instead of Firefox’s Gecko, perhaps with good reason.

So if I have to bet, I’d bet that Chrome will eventually catch up with Firefox and then surpass it quickly. It’s just a matter of time.

Chrome OS

Finally, let’s talk about Chrome OS. For starters, nothing specific has been said, the announcement was just a publicity move to shift eyes towards Google. You cannot draw any conclusions because nobody knows what Chrome OS will look like. Will it be too simple? Will it have eye-candy? Will it be fast? Will it be reliable? Who knows.

What we do know is that it will use the Linux kernel. The kernel is by far the most complicated part of an Operating System. Sure, there’s a lot of things in user-space too, but you can make mistakes on user-space that you just can’t do in the kernel. And yeah, they’ll have to make a few changes to the kernel too, but that doesn’t take nearly as much effort as starting one from scratch.

Now the question is what will they do on user-space? Maybe they’ll write a simplistic piece of software that will re-invent the wheel that open source has been developing over decades. Or maybe they will come up with a innovative outside-the-box design. There’s really not much point in speculating.

What I’m thinking is that a computer with Chrome OS (and Chrome), Internet access, and Google Wave, will probably be more than enough for newer generations of kids that don’t have our preconceptions of what software should do, in fact, perhaps it will be much better than our current situation.

If you consider the big picture, I think every move from Google is strategically sound. There are huge risks, but if they succeed in their latest endeavours (they usually do), they’ll dramatically change the software game as we know it. I’m eager to see what these nay-sayers think one or two years down the road.

12 thoughts on “Don’t underestimate Google Chrome OS, or Google for that matter

  1. Chrome is a failure, partly because it is not available on Linux. None of Google’s desktop apps are available on Linux, unless you use Wine. Are they going to make a distro and get Chrome running on it under Wine? That’s not big news, that’s a failure.

    Google has not experience at all making Linux desktop apps. For them to throw their hat into the Linux ring is laughable by people who use Linux day to day. Let’s start off with 1 native app, then maybe people will take G seriously in the Linux realm.

    P.S. Using 1 billion linux servers does not count as linux desktop/distro experience.

  2. Heh, yeah, the post is clearly a joke, but it’s being shared as if there was something true there… I don’t think so.

    In any case, there’s also a lot of people talking about Chrome OS… OMG! it’s DOA. Ubuntu is better. Do we need to rewrite emacs in JS?

    I just felt compelled to put things in perspective😛

  3. Hell yeah! cozzz!

    Man if I ruled he world I would have definitively give it to google… they are making me happy of being alive to see these changes.. I’m a chromer… except when I want to check facebook or youtube… or bank transactions… but everything else… I’m sooo google… even got a bumper sticker of Gmail😛

  4. Android is something that, as much as people are expecting a big wave of phones, when you look at the details they are intending on a slow meiotic rise in products using the OS.
    So to date, Android has been going according to plan… the steadily adding of models using android has been expected.

    Chrome to me is funny. I am not sure what precisely Google gains out of doing, maybe save one thing. Keeping people honest.
    That is not to say that Mozilla isn’t honest… but having Chrome around doing things that Mozilla developers are considering is a good thing, and incites competition (which is always a good thing).
    Apple might be another story, which could also explain the “Why Webkit?” aside from technical superiority.

    Chrome OS… I am in a wait and see mode on this, really. I feel as if they missed something but not working with the community (like one of the many distributions) behind linux or Intel with Moblin for a platform like this (assuming that they are rolling their own linux, which would be a little unlike the company), but still it remains to be seen where Google will go with this. Till the ball drops… anything and very thing is speculation unless it comes from Google themselves. So I won’t be making pie in the sky predictions on the OS, I am given nothing to do so with….

  5. I think the side effect (or may be the main one) of google getting into the mobile and netbook market, with its open source software will eventually open up the hardware as well. With Android, there has been much activity to port it to tons of hardware platforms!!! I hope the same happens with Netbooks as well.

    Google’s initiative is definitely kindling innovation.

  6. @duv I think the purpose of developing Chromium is to finally have a decent browser, with decent browser technology (WebKit), something nobody else seems to be doing (at least not with much success).

    Sure, there is Firefox, which has many good things, but now they are focusing too much on publicity and not much on developing the product. The underlying technology leaves much to desire (if you have seen Firefox’s code you’ll know what I mean).

    But yeah, competition is always good, and now even Firefox is stealing some ideas from Chrome🙂

  7. @ FelipeC:
    I would not call it stealing yet, but I will agree Mozilla has a tendency to be a little conservative (sometimes very much so) with ideas. Like what has been happening with project electrolysis, this has been talk that did appear around the time of Firefox 1.5. But to try and get this all right, planing has been fairly slow… Chrome helped in forcing their hand to “GET IT DONE ALREADY”. And hey look, prototypes are up with the some code from Chromium to help clear out some troubled areas in functioning… I call that some progress and a win on both sides, and there could be some thing gained out of the still very measured approach that Chrome might have missed (mind you, I can’t tell you what it is, since I would not have a clue… and being opensoruced, it could be something that, if it catches notice from Chromium-dev, will be shared).

    The only problem that I have seen with Gecko is that it tries really hard to be the “Internet in a can”. It tosses you anything and everything that one could use for a browser platform in one big blob, but for most people… all they want is a rendering engine. It’s been a common complaint with Gecko in the past, and I doubt that Mozilla/Gecko 2.0 will help that any of that (through there maybe some improvement in modulating many of Gecko’s components).
    Webkit is simply this… it an rendering engine, end stop. I think that there was a need for something like that which Mozilla has no intention of filling (through people did try). That much is very clear to me and yet it doesn’t stop projects like Songbird or Flock from happening…

    “Sure, there is Firefox, which has many good things, but now they are focusing too much on publicity and not much on developing the product.” — There are two thing that I see in Mozilla that does have me a little worried, there evangelizing resources are GROWING. And the rate of this is just down right alarming. It hasn’t begun to effect many parts of mozilla yet, but the noise around “the browser” is a good show on how troubling it can be. It tends to drown out most of the technical talk at the time of release, which is needed… Fennc’s release, I fear will make this worse (seeing as people have a very large attachment to the mobile industry).
    The good thing that I have seen out of the Firefox 3.5 release, is that MOST of this noise has been re-routed to highlight technical achievement in Gecko upon the release, but still it something that I have been keeping an eye on… since as I said, it worries me.

    The second comes out of Mozilla timeless conservatism, in that there are times where mozilla is slow in adopting anything. The thing that has me a little worried with project electrolysis is that there is a chance that it gets left on the vine… if that happened it could be a while till Mozilla picks it up again, if at all. Given that resources are being tossed at it, it’s a needless fear, but it’s happened before.
    Mozilla Labs was something that I thought would help with that issue, but it hasn’t…. not by much anyway.
    Still it more a matter of getting involved and hoping that you are not against the tide (which, lets face it…. Mozilla have always been against).

    Well, that is my un-informed opinion anyway.
    Duv

  8. @Duv I agree. I also don’t like projects that provide “everything in a box”, it forces many projects to re-invent the wheel.

  9. As I said, that is something that Gecko is by nature. It something that I don’t thing that Mozilla can really control by much since there are a lot of things in the code base (which in truth is really old) that is low hanging fruit and reamains close to the renderer.
    XULrunner does rectify some of that, but not all of it. Which is why I think that re-factoring the code (Mozilla 2.0) is a good thing… since there are a lot of things in the code that, go unused. It’s sort of a shame that there has been little talk about it outside of IRC (again, the evangelizing problem) , but what can one do other than join up and see what can be done.

    Webkit, right now, seem to be all over the place… I am not sure what will happen when GNOME will go one way, Apple another, Nokia does something completely different and KDE-dev asserts there claim (which they can do at any time). Any small house in this mix would have to be a little worried I think.

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