So this is Chrome OS. I was expecting more, but maybe too much

Beyond everything else that was going on Thursday, like everyone else I was anxiously awaiting Google’s announcements about their much anticipated Chrome OS. Lucky for me, I teach my BCIT class on Thursdays I had bigger things on my mind to worry about reading live blogs on the whole announcement and presentation. I waited until I got home and then started to read. What I read wasn’t really flattering for Google though:

It didn’t take long for people to built Chrome OS virtual machines so everyone could try (granted the source available isn’t the newest stuff Google was showing):

It took me a little futzing to get it running (I didn’t decompress the .bz2 file correctly), Techcrunch’s step-by-step directions set me on the right course (I agree with TC—get a disposable Gmail account for this set up) and I was off to the races. A few clicks and boots in Parallels and I got:

Chrome_OS-full.jpg

Yeah not very exciting. It’s pretty much just Chrome running on top of Ubuntu without any other hardware. In fact, that’s exactly what Google wants. When Chrome OS comes out next year pre-installed on certain netbooks, that’s going to be pretty much the only way to use it. Google doesn’t intend Chrome OS to compete with OS X, Windows, or Ubuntu as an OS you can just install on whatever machine you wish. Chrome OS is going to be a netbook os.

Okay, so you’re going to get a netbook that is going to be pretty much a brick unless it’s connected to the net (as the doom and gloom sayers put it)? Looks like it right now. So is Chrome OS a flop already? Not by a long-shot. Google is trying something pretty interesting. They are going to see if with faster connections and machines, can something like a (semi)dumb terminal work. Can you really work mostly in the cloud?

Chrome OS powered netbooks are going to be truly net connected and net dependent computers. This might be a hard change to swallow for many users.

My bet is I think ever connected folks like me could do it, but I’m still not sure if the netbook is going to be the right form factor for it. I’m wondering if a tablet would be better. Would an Apple Table crush a Chrome OS powered netbook? My guess is for a lot of people a device with a little storage, larger screen than a netbook or iPhone will have great appeal. For the right price.

Now, who might be the real winners with Chrome OS? Students. Think of a high school where a Chrome OS netbook is the standard. Text books on flash media. Homework written online and backed up automatically. In an always connected school, the machines are going to be a boon. At home, maybe as the interface to your home systems or a media center controller. Good places too.

The biggest barrier to Google and netbook manufacturers isn’t going to be price, it’s people buying the netbook (and truly a netbook) and being disappointed in the device. It’s going to take clever marketing and solid sales materials to make sure that people know what the devices strengths and weaknesses are.

I’m not planning on firing up the Chrome OS VM too often. Maybe just to show it off. I think our expectations were just too grandiose for what Google really had planned. The true test will be the first crop of netbooks next year.

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