For years, many people have speculated that Google would introduce a new operating system to compete with Windows, Macintosh, and Linux. Google has now confirmed those predictions: the new Chrome operating system will appear in beta later this year, and new "netbook" computers based on that operating system will be available for sale about a year from now. They are expected to be very low-cost.
The Chrome operating system will run on the x86 and ARM architectures and will stress speed, simplicity and security. "x86" refers to computers using Intel-compatible central processors, such as all of today's Windows and Macintosh computers. The first release of the new operating system is intended for use in the tiny, low-cost portable computers known as netbooks, which have been selling quickly even as demand for other PCs has plummeted.
The new Google Chrome operating system will use a Linux kernel but most everything else will be new, including a new windowing system. According to Google, "For application developers, the web is the platform. All web-based applications will automatically work and new applications can be written using your favorite web technologies. And of course, these apps will run not only on Google Chrome OS, but on any standards-based browser on Windows, Macintosh and Linux thereby giving developers the largest user base of any platform."
Indeed, the Chrome operating system is obviously designed "for people who spend most of their time on the web."
You can read more in the New York Times at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/08/technology/companies/08operate.htm?_r=2.
I think this could be a killer, especially as the world continues to rush to "online, all the time." Low-cost netbook computers sell for $300 to $400 today and probably will drop still further in price in the future. Almost all of those low-cost systems include wi-fi wireless networking, and a few now offer wide-area "3G" wireless networks.
Next, most of the present netbook computers run the Windows XP operating system which has to be "shoehorned in" to run on these lower-powered PCs. XP is not a good fit. Microsoft is also trying to abandon that operating system and move everyone to Vista and then on to Windows 7. However, the bloated Vista operating system is an even worse choice for these tiny netbook computers with limited disk space and slower, battery-conserving processors. Windows 7 appears to be about the same as Vista: not a good "fit" for netbooks. So here is Microsoft, producer of the best-selling operating systems in the world, without a good operating system for the hottest-selling computers in the market today.
A few netbooks do run Linux, which works much better; however, the Linux-powered machines have not been very successful in the marketplace. That's unfortunate, as I love my lightweight Linux-powered Asus Eee netbook PC. A local department store near me now sells the Linux-powered Asus Eee netbook for $249. That's a great price for a computer that weighs less than two pounds and yet surfs the web and includes a very good word processor, spreadsheet program, and more. It also runs all the net-based "cloud applications," including Google Docs, Zoho Docs, Salesforce, as well as genealogy applications The Next Generation, PhpGedView, and FamilyTreeExplorer.com. I suspect the new Chrome operating system will run similar applications, and prices for the new Chrome netbooks could fall to the $250 range or even lower.
A new operating system that is optimized for the low-powered and inexpensive computers makes sense. A company with deep pockets, such as Google, could pull this off and become very successful. I have to wonder, however, if the world really needs a fourth operating system. (The first three are Windows, Macintosh, and Linux, although there are a few others that have never made it to the mainstream.)
In any case, this has to be good news for the producers of online genealogy programs, including The Next Generation, PhpGedView, and FamilyTreeExplorer.com.
If several million new Chrome-based "netbook" computers are sold in the next few years, will we see even more genealogy applications move to the cloud?