There have long been rumors of a Google Operating system. Last night those rumors were finally laid to rest with the announcement that a new Google operating system is in the works.
If you ask me, the Google Chrome OS will really be nothing more than a Linux distribution. It will use the Linux kernel along with a “new windowing system” Google has developed. I suspect it is really just a new window manager that sits on top of the X.org server or XFree86 (X.org would be my guess).
The Chrome browser will play a large part of the windowing system (the OS is actually called the Google Chrome OS). It seems that Google wants to further close the gap between the desktop and the web, and the applications for the operating system will be based on web technologies. I’m fairly certain that Google Gears will also play a significant role in the OS, in order to make applications available offline as well as online.
So what does this mean for Microsoft? Well, Microsoft has already announced what seems to me to be a similar product, that Ballmer refered to as Windows Cloud. Google’s announcement may help to push Microsoft to release Windows Cloud a bit sooner than expected, depending on how well the Google Chrome OS is received.
I doubt that there will really be widespread adoption of the Google OS when it is released. It probably will not be capable of running Windows applications right out of the box, unless Google includes Wine along with it. It is difficult for people to completely abandon a platform they have been using for over 10 years, without having backward compatability to it. Backward compatability has been both a blessing and a curse for Microsoft, as they have released new versions of Windows.
Windows vs. OS X is a good case in point, when it comes to adopting a new operating system. OS X is a great product, but still has a long way to go before it takes considerable market share from Windows. Plus, OS X has the advantage of products that DO provide backward compatability with Windows, yet it probably has not achieved the market penetration Apple desires.
There is one major thing in Google’s favor that Apple does not have. The Google OS will be free. I think one obstacle for Apple to further increase their market share is that the OS is bound to very expensive (and pretty) hardware. Google will have no such obstacle since their OS will be free and open source.
I for one am looking forward to the release of Google Chrome OS. I enjoy tinkering with Linux and other free operating systems. I will be most interested to see if I actually would be able to use it as a replacement to my desktop OS.