Google are almost ready to launch their very own mobile computers, a couple of branded lightweight netbooks that are likely to come out early next year. The big news with these devices is not so much the computers themselves however, but the Chrome OS that will run on them.
While unlikely to be much of a challenge in the wider computing market – at least initially – Chrome OS will offer a serious challenge to Windows in the netbook field. Google CEO Eric Schmidt has recently confirmed what most people already expected – Chrome OS is for keyboards and Android is for touchscreen devices.
The codenames of these devices have just been leaked, although they don’t have much chance of making it through to the retail stage – of course. Internally codenamed “Andretti” and “Mario”, it seems that we have an IndyCar racing fan somewhere in the development team.
The Google branded versions of Chrome netbooks are unlikely to be produced in huge numbers, and their major role will be the popularisation of the Chrome OS. Google have also been testing Chrome OS with Asus, Lenovo, and Dell computers, but recently the bug reports have stopped referencing these devices and instead been referring to the mysterious “Andretti” and “Mario”.
Chrome is likely to be very different from other netbook operating systems on the market, and will be an online-only operating system that will utilise Google’s many Internet resources rather than standard desktop applications. Chrome is a Linux-based, open-source operating system, and represents an important shift towards cloud computing.
However, not everyone is certain about the future of this kind of operating system paradigm. Tony Bradley, writing for PC World has said: “We can already do most, if not all, of what Chrome OS promises to deliver. Using a Windows 7 or Linux-based netbook, users can simply not install anything but a web browser and connect to the vast array of Google products and other web-based services and applications. Netbooks have been successful at capturing the low-end PC market, and they provide a web-centric computing experience today. I am not sure why we should get excited that a year from now we’ll be able to do the same thing, but locked into doing it from the fourth-place web browser.”
While this may very well be true, Chrome OS does represent one of the clearest examples of a shift away from the individual desktop and towards the collective cloud. While we can run any computer in this manner if we wish, the very existence of “Mario” and “Andretti” may be a sign that the Internet – and Google in particular – have become mature enough to support users in this way.