Google’s ChromeOS is heavy on vaporware and light on details at the moment which leaves fertile room for random speculation. Most of the guesses I’ve been reading are really kind of boring so I’m going to sketch out what I think a truly exciting ChromeOS cold be.
I’m extrapolating my guess from three pieces of data:
1) The Chrome moniker is deliberate
2) It’s targeting netbooks for a reason
3) Google has in it’s DNA, the instinct to play David to Microsoft’s Goliath (cf. Google Docs)
Netbooks are great in theory but as soon as you buy one, you run into all of the classical frustrations of owning more than one PC, namely: trying to keep all of your various files, bookmarks & settings synchronized. Sure, you can get your files synchronized and there’s probably a firefox plugin to synchronize bookmarks and probably another one to keep your open tabs in sync and… blargh, who could keep up with all that? My hypothetical ChromeOS solves this by simply saying all your netbook is is a portable browser window. You won’t be able to run photoshop, notepad or even a command prompt. Instead, the only thing running will be Chrome.
But, at a stroke, synchronization is no longer something you have to think about. ChromeOS won’t be an OS in the traditional sense. It’ll just *be* the Chrome browser window you have running on your desktop. Open a new tab on your desktop Chrome, a new tab will appear on your netbook Chrome, half compose an email, go sit in a park and you’ll magically have that half email for you to resume work on, get halfway through a game of Bejewelled and go finish the rest while you’re on the throne. For the first time, you’ll be able to stop in the middle of something, move to a completely different machine and be confident that you can resume exactly where you left off.
What would be so brilliant about this move is that it enters into a space that Microsoft can’t replicate. ChromeOS works, not by doing more than Windows, but by doing less. ChromeOS correctly recognizes the tradeoffs inherent in netbooks. Would you like to run photoshop on a netbook? Maybe once in a while. But what you would really like much more is never having that pit of the stomach feeling when you realize that presentation file is on your home desktop and you’re in Iowa with the work laptop.
Will the real ChromeOS be anything like what I’ve sketched out? Well, here’s hoping…