I Still Don't Get Chrome OS

In general I’m a big fan of the fine folks at Google. You’ll rip Gmail and Google Docs and Google Reader and Google Chrome and Google Voice and a bunch of other Google stuff from my cold dead hands. But I just don’t get Chrome OS.

When I wrote about it a while back I said it was Google’s version of SplashTop - a hardware based VM that would launch extremely quickly and let you do a couple of basic things, like web browsing and instant messaging. After reading about it and checking out a VM version, in some ways it’s less than that.

I thought maybe they’d do something cool with their new windowing system like Moblin does with Clutter. As it turns out, their new windowing system is no windowing system - it’s a maximized Google Chrome browser. You aren’t going to be installing any other applications that might require another window, with the root partition being mounted as read only to emphasize that fact. It’s a web browser on top of a Linux kernel. Period. Whatever else you run will have to be a plugin for the Chrome browser.

I thought it could one-up SplashTop in that it could run on anything (vs SplashTop’s hardware solution), but that’s not the case either. Chrome OS is both hardware and software - it’s SSD only and will target specific WiFi chips. It’s an open source project so maybe somebody will port it (don’t know why), but out of the box you’ll likely need a netbook made specifically for Chrome OS or you’ll have to break out your toolbox and start replacing parts.

The security model is kind of cool. Since you can’t write to the root partition, the OS checks itself on every boot and if something is wrong it just restores the OS.

That’s a tight security model. With a Linux foundation, however, it isn’t like you’re walking around with your pants down.* I’m not sure how useful that level of security is.

I understand I’m not the target of this type of OS for the same reason Moblin (a very nice OS) doesn’t live on my netbook for more than a few days per release. I don’t want my netbook to look and act like my cell phone. It’s isn’t a cell phone. It’s a little laptop. I want it to look and act like a 1024x600 desktop OS. So maybe my thoughts on this type of OS are misguided and casual users will snap it up like hotcakes next year. But I still don’t get it.

*I’m looking at you Windows <fill in the blank>.