Google Chrome OS

By | March 31, 2010

Guest post by Ayesha Ahmed.

Google Chrome OS is the latest Google venture into the rather tight operating system market, a web-based operating system targeting users who spend the majority of their time on their desktops surfing the internet. The operating system is aptly named after Google’s famous sleek web browser Chrome, presently in its “Alpha State” of development.

Google announced Chrome OS in July last year and opened the project for developers in late November to modify and create their customized version of an operating system. In this article, we will concisely discuss the concept, architecture, and major features of Chrome OS. We will also attempt to investigate the ambiguities in this revolutionary operating system.

Chrome OS will run on x86-based PCs and devices built around the ARM processor when released in the next half of the running year. Later Google Chrome OS will also be available on desktops, serving as an ideal machine for a public Internet terminal, according to Google. The  OS is expected to be fast, secure, and pre-dominantly cheap.

The Concept

Google Chrome is web-centric operating system initially built for netbooks. It’s an attempt by Google to re-think the architecture of the Operating System. Today we find that most desktops are chiefly used for internet and sharing. This is evident from the growing popularity of netbooks. Netbooks, are small low-power devices, that get their names from their major use i.e. usage of internet. We often find ourselves booting our desktops for brief internet sessions for searching a query or for checking mail. In such trivial situations, the time any average operating system takes to log you on to the internet is time-consuming, and troublesome.

Google Chrome OS tends to diminish the irrelevant process time such as hardware detection, BIOS, OS Primitives etc that most users do not even bother with. Google claims that even the fastest computer takes about 45 seconds to boot. Google Chrome is intended to provide the core features of an OS which is speed, simplicity and security. Google Chrome is based on the cloud computing idea; most of the user actions will be performed online. An example of cloud computing is the current version of Apple’s iWork productivity suite. iWork ’09 also integrates with Apple’s online service. Only here can you can share, edit, and view your iWork documents.

Core Features of Chrome OS

Google Chrome is indeed a very ambitious project by Google. Google Chrome is a light weight operating system that is secure from malware and viruses; a simple operating system with merely a web-browser to handle the entire user activities. Presently in the ‘Alpha Working State’ Chrome takes about 7 seconds to log onto the internet after its startup screen.

Like Chrome web browser, Chrome OS is immensely speedy and fast. Security is probably the most exciting feature of Chrome OS. Like MAC it claims to be virus free. As Google has attempted to completely redesign the fundamental security architecture of the OS, it is aimed at making a more secure OS so that users don’t have to worry about viruses, malware, and security updates.

Chrome OS

Working with Chrome OS

Booting on a Chrome OS device takes hardly 7 seconds to get the user to the log-in screen. Once logged on to Chrome OS, the device resumes your previous internet sessions. All the user activities are catered for by the browser, as all the user applications reside within the browser, over the internet.

User interface

Chrome OS is centered on a sleek and neat interface with no traditional desktop applications, minimizing the screen space used by the OS. The OS experience takes place in a “web-browser” and other trivial tasks such as chatting, viewing calendar or contacts take place in “Panels”.  Let us overview them:

Web browser

The web-browser is the core application of the Operating system where almost all of the user activities are centered. Though Chrome is already known for its simple design, the design of Chrome in Chrome OS is further simplified by combining the “Web pages”, “Chrome Menu” and “User Application” in a single thin strip. It is expected that in further versions of Chrome OS, the entire web experience will be window free in a full-screen mode.

The browser has three major features:

Web pages: These tabs behave like average tabs in chrome. You can surf webpages in these tabs.

Application Tabs:  The browser also has a set of ‘Application Tabs’. Application tabs are pinned for easy access in the web-browser. This gives quick and easy access to application like ‘Gmail’, ‘Google Docs’ or potentially any application that is often used.

Chrome Menu: Besides the Application Tab, you will find the chrome menu. Other applications like contacts and calculator can be accessed from this menu. Applications accessed from the Chrome menu can open in application tabs, or in small overlay window panels.

Panels: Panels are persistent light weight windows that can overlay on top of the browser. The window continues to display even if you toggle among the different chrome browser windows. Through Panels, activities like chatting and file handling and sharing are accomplished. For instance, if the user wants to view the contents of a USB device, he plugs it in the machine and he will see the contents in the pop-up panels.  You can also dock the Panels in a side-bar.

Applications in Chrome OS

All apps in Google Chrome OS are web apps. Apps are sandboxed. This means that they can’t interfere with each other and your device. Therefore the chances of getting a virus are minimal. The root system is read only. All user data is encrypted and fully secure. On bootup, the OS checks itself and incase any improper functionality is found; the OS automatically downloads patches and reinstalls them.

Chrome OS does not support local applications. This means you won’t be able to download and install Firefox. Another consequence is that Google will make an app store for its users. However it’s yet not functional.

File storage

As discussed earlier Chrome OS is based on cloud computing. All the applications and user files and data are saved over the internet. Though there have been major concerns about data security in cloud computing, Google seems to have somewhat convinced people that their data is safe. It’s a fact that even today most Google users’ personal information is already up in the cloud.

This implies that users do not have to worry incase their netbooks are stolen, as most of their data is still safe in the cloud. Moreover users will be free from the inconvenience of backing up their data time and again.

File sharing

File sharing is easier with Chrome OS. Consider a hypothetical situation where you have to send a file from a USB drive to your friend with whom you are chatting. You will plug-in the USB and the file will show up in a panel. Now you have to simply drag and drop the file between the two panels i.e. the chat and the USB panel.

Google Chrome is yet another ambitious and highly anticipated project from the house of Google. This internet focused device is indeed this year’s most revolutionary step in computing. However, the question of Google Chrome OS usefulness is still debatable – when in the absence of an internet connection.

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