Linux

What does Google Chrome OS really mean for Linux?

The announcement of the Google Chrome OS has everyone scratching their heads and making wild assumptions. What does the Linux community think of all of this? Here are a couple of differing viewpoints. What changes do you predict in the OS landscape by this time next year?

First, let's assume that the Chrome OS actually makes it beyond a blog post announcement and that the source code will be released for everyone to have a look at it later this year, as planned. Many people view Google's announcement as the gauntlet thrown down to Microsoft, but others are already debating what this means to the Linux community as a whole.

The Chrome OS is Linux, so it has to be good, right? In his article, "The Incredible Shrinking Operating System," in the NY Times, Saul Hansell quotes VMware executive (formerly of Microsoft) Paul Maritz:

"The traditional operating system is becoming less and less important," Mr. Maritz said. "It's not going to go away, but it is going to shrink."

If the future is smaller-faster-more flexible, that's right in the Linux wheelhouse, leaving Microsoft in the unenviable position of the "traditional OS" that Maritz predicts is going away. But not so fast, counters Information Week's Mitch Wagner, who writes:

"Chrome OS potentially strengthens Microsoft, by sowing confusion among the Linux competition. Where there is confusion in the marketplace, hardware manufacturers and consumers look to the safe choice, and the safe choice is Microsoft."

Okay, even to an OS agnostic like me, that sounds like some powerful wishful thinking. Since when has Linux not been fragmented? Fragmentation and endless forks and offshoots is part of what Linux is all about. Do you suppose SUSE, Red Hat, and Canonical are really all that concerned with a new entrant in the Linux field? First of all, everyone will want to wait and see what Chrome OS actually does, and if it's successful, it should prod all of the other communities to continually improve their own projects and take advantage of any good press coming the Linux way.

What are your predictions for how all of this can go? What do you think the OS landscape will look like this time next year?

About

Selena has been at TechRepublic since 2002. She is currently a Senior Editor with a background in technical writing, editing, and research. She edits Data Center, Linux and Open Source, Apple in the Enterprise, The Enterprise Cloud, Web Designer, and...

45 comments
alfielee
alfielee

As business execs start to ponder the alternatives then some confusion will reign & bcoz of that they will stick with an outdated ideal that is Windows doesn't make sense. Yes, the old systems may remain with Windows but the likelihood is the new portable & cheaper options will move with mainstream & that is looking more & more like Android, not Chrome. The old desktop is in for a booting as space continues to become an issue. Big screens with small interconnections, rather than major infrastructure.

Evisscerator
Evisscerator

The Google Chrome OS is another offering from the Linux community that is trying to jockey for some position against the Microsoft Juggernaught. Suffice to say that should Linux make head way at getting into many machines sold or even wiped and reloaded with the new OS, it would be very devastating to Microsoft's bottom line in the long run because the often bloated and broken Microsoft Windows is an favorite target of virus and malware programmers who would otherwise be making great software for the rest of the world to use. Google Chrome OS will make its debut soon and with the likes of Ubuntu and other versions of Linux out there, it should make a huge splash in an already murky pond of Linux water.

Stovies
Stovies

Excuse me for using a portion of the comments I wrote to Jason Hiner?s question on Google Chrome OS. I answered for Open Source vs Microsoft at present. I wrote: I have been introducing friends to UBUNTU and they are finding it easy to learn and also runs faster on their older machines than their Windows XP does. Where Open Source has gone wrong has been in refusing to produce a Desktop operating system that works like Windows. UBUNTU is there now; for Internet, Word Processing including a Publisher, music and photos. Open Source can still have versions that suit the Technical people you described above; and that?s something they will not get from Microsoft. I run UBUNTU on one computer and Windows XP Pro on another computer, and easily access DropBox, Google Documents and open all the files easily; although one system opens the files in Word and the other in Open Office 3.2. I can also share files through LAN. UBUNTU seriously needs to become marketers. I have spoken to teachers and they have never heard of it, yet it could save schools a lot of money; and allow students to experiment with programming and developing specialist varieties. If this market were properly covered Chrome OS would not be needed in the home desktop. Chrome OS may tempt businesses, but they would have to have masses of drivers for hardware and proprietary software.

l_e_cox
l_e_cox

I think this is the crucial question. I have read the release blog. It looks like what they are pushing is cloud computing. All your software, maybe even your storage, is on the web. It may be that for people who want to have a "real" computer on their desktop, Chrome won't even be a viable choice. It looks like what Chrome will be is a browser with enough extra functionality to run stand-alone on most hardware. It's a simple idea. I don't know how many computer pros will go for this paradigm. The rest of the public might, though, especially if it substantially decreases the cost of hardware.

jck
jck

Is that Google can help to channel the Linux community's efforts somehow. Would be nice to see an OS that doesn't need the latest hardware to run decently fast. I just hope the free OS doesn't come with banner ads in application windows.

pdickey043
pdickey043

I think Google is looking at the fact that it's a brand name that most people (even non-techies) know. So, they're thinking that they have the best chance of knocking Microsoft off. How many of your family and friends have heard of Ubuntu or Cannonical or even Red Hat (if they're not the techie type)? Now, how many have heard of Google? I think this may help the Linux community for the fact that it will put it in the forefront with a brand name that everyone recognizes. Then, people will realize there are other choices out there, which may do what they want better (Ubuntu/Kubuntu, RedHat/Fedora, etc). Have a great day:) Patrick.

jlwallen
jlwallen

i think it all depends upon how they handle the desktop. if Google does the desktop right it could mean quite a lot for Linux...to the tune finding acceptance among the unwashed masses. if they do not plan and execute the desktop properly it could mean another step backwards for Linux. i have seen attempts at integrating Google with the desktop. Google Gears was a waste of time. if you tried gOS you know what i mean. it was a great idea executed poorly. what i experienced was a desktop OS with a bunch of desktop widgets included, none of which really did anything important. but this time around what Google can do is integrate seamlessly with all of the google apps: mail, calendar, contacts. basically they can change the desktop metaphor to include a groupware suite...or not so much as "include" but more "center around" a groupware suite. it could work. problem is, the unwashed masses most likely don't take advantage of the groupware suite so much as they do their browsers and email clients. let's face it, the way the average user is going all that is going to matter is that social networking is integrated into the desktop. whoever does that right will probably have the hordes following like a rat to cheese.

maclovin
maclovin

So....this is gonna be like Google....but on 22"s! "They spinnin' *****, they spinnin' *****" as per Chris Rock :D. Couldn't help myself.

cgr_cool_87
cgr_cool_87

I think it will give a great boost to Linux that a huge company like google is interested in Open Source and also this should bring a good numer of people to use Linux or other open source systems

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I think we'll have to wait and see beyond rumor on this one. Hype and buz are fine for marketing spin but it'll be more about the technology if it happens. In terms of the other distribution vendors, I don't see why they would be concerned. "Linux" is only a component, one of the many nuts and bolts that go together to make an OS. Novell, Red Hat and Connonical are companies that provide an OS which happens to use the Linux kernel. Suse, Red Hat Enterprise and Ubuntu are the brand names those companies provide there individual products under. A new brand name in the market is like a new canned soup in the grocery store, Campbells is not going to get excited over Heinz new flavor unless the consumers suddenly abandon Mixed Vegetable for the new Mushroom puree.

zbw9eds3d
zbw9eds3d

I never have. I don't like the idea of a private organization monopolizing the information that we can search for. There is too broad a scope for a system that large. There is no way they will be able to ensure data integrity or security, without hard digital encryption. They already capitalize off of files kept on their servers, personal data mined from ads, and information they can access on their mail server system. I find my privacy and my inventions much too valuable to trust to such a devious company. Linux keeps me OFF of and SAFE from the dirty WWW, and I like it that way. I will NEVER use Google for anything. I usually NoScript and AdBlock them from Mozilla. My 2c, Craig

Slayer_
Slayer_

400 dollar netbook, or a full blown desktop for 400 bucks, usually including MS Windows. To me, it seems like a no brainer if your trying to save money. The best bang for your buck, is by far the budget desktop.

melias
melias

Most users will not know Google is Linux based, they will just hear 'Google' and that is all.

keith_hallquist
keith_hallquist

Anybody know how Chrome OS will provide hardware drivers installs? Or is it just a quasi-OS requiring Linux pre-installed to install drivers in the usual way?

CG IT
CG IT

will work well with the masses [consumers]. Especially if they get the hardware right. Cheap hardware, meaning if it breaks, the consumer goes and buys another one, with the ability to run something like XP CE to "boot" to the "cloud" [discless client] and run email, web browsing, will capture the potential billions of users world wide. With flash drives at 64GB and climbing, users can save whatever they want to the portable. There is a whole range of services that would benefit from this for the consumer and a financial boon to mfs. Licensing problems with movies and music would essentially go away because the user doesn't download and store, simply plays. Games are run from servers with a very small client program. No media to buy thus not having to provide media in the form of DVDs. But all this is predicated on low cost high speed, internet access for the masses. Bundled services like cable companies provide can give everyone access. Free Wifi I don't think will happen unless everyone pays a tax for it. Many cities have tried it, but in the end, someone has to pay for it and if it's free, then who pays?

his123456
his123456

It looks like Chrome OS is based on SuSe Linux source code. I have used many different Linux Distributions (distros), and SuSe is good, but not good for me. Debian, and Debian based distros (Ubuntu, Sidux, etc.) can use Debian repositories. Debian repositories have the most applications (apps) to choose from. There are less apps in repositories for non-Debian distros (SuSe, Slackware, Redhat/Fedora/Centos, etc.). When I booted the Chrome OS beta I downloaded, it looked an feeled just like SuSe. It worked OK, however when I used SuSe's package-manager to view what apps were available, it was the same ol' story as to why I do not use SuSe as my main Linux distro: the apps I want are just not there, and the selection of other apps is small in quanity when compared to Debian/Ubuntu repositories. Analogy: A really nice car that is reliable and easy to use, is of no use if it can not carry what you want, go where you want to go, and/or won't run on common roads/highways. IMHO: I use Linux Mint (LM) which is based on Ubuntu (which is based on Debian). LM 7 uses Debian and Ubuntu repositories. Apps run great, reliability is excellent, synaptic package-manager is easy to use, & upgrades are straight-forward and painless with no command-line (CLI) needed. If I were part of the Chrome OS development team, I would have hitched their Linux distro wagon to Ubuntu source code. Then Chrome OS could use the widely accepted .deb compiled apps and/or Debian/Ubuntu repositories. his123456

trustmubaiwa
trustmubaiwa

is this operating system really going be like Linux? or is it going to be one of those Windows Cloned OS?

LeeBurchfield
LeeBurchfield

I just don't get how Google is going to be able to sustain development of "free" and open source services and utilities. How will Google make money off an OS? Will it have an embedded ad machine? Linux is appealing precisely because it isn't capitalist. If Google is developing an OS, I'd bet they have an angle that will generate revenue from it, and that isn't really what open source is supposed to be about.

kino.mondesir
kino.mondesir

Why would Google spend resources to develop and market their own browser and operating system when an open source alternative already exists. They could update the code to tie into Google services. Improve the install of a Google OS where it would ask for your gmail information and sync it with your calendar, email, links, contact information, etc. This would allow users to immediately benefit from the install.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

Until Chrome is released it's vaporware and if it is released it will be a Beta for three or more years. The BIG question is will Duke Nukem Forever run on Chrome?

mewombat
mewombat

I heard elsewhere (probably on TheReg) that Texas Instruments has an early form ofChromeOS running at their labs, as they (along with Lenovo, ASUS,Acer et al) have been named as potential hardware partners for them. And we should be able to see the format it will take later this year when G releases the developer version. I shall attempt to plop it on my eeePC when it shows, out of curiosityif nothing else! TheWombat

john3347
john3347

I also don't trust Microsoft, but I distrust Google FAR greater than I distrust any other internet giant,.... or any internet mouse. I do not use Google search, Google earth, Google Chrome or any other Google "service", and a Google OS will not change that; therefore I don't think a Google OS will have much effect on my home-based small business. I wish the upcoming OS all the failure it deserves. I look forward to the day that the entire Google Empire crumbles.

LyleTaylor
LyleTaylor

I tend to fall in this camp as well. I do search on Google, but I have my AV clean up the tracking cookies. I use gmail for some things but redirect sensitive e-mail to other e-mail addresses not hosted by Google. Basically, I don't trust Google with my information and don't see the need for a Google OS (where they may add more tracking and information gathering). I'm pretty sure I won't be using it if I have a choice.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Internet search, it's generic enough and Google remains today's Dog Pile or Webcrawler. Email, it replaces hotmail as my generic first contact and "please enter our address here to download". Apps, between USB and my own server with ssh at home or work's in house network storage, there is no benefit. Earth, mostly a source for my PDA to pull raw map overlays from along with various other sources. No need for Google Earth on my local machine. Lack of trust is a part of it for me also but in general, there is just no need or benefit compelling me to use most of what Google is offering.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

After all, how many people know or care what kernel is running behind the Amazon Book Reader or there mobile phone?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

The current suggested use is as an embedded OS. This is like the OS on one's mobile phone. It's meant to be installed by the hardware manufacturer for the limited functions of the hardware. Like the iPhone, it's not meant to have all sorts of third party hardware plugged into it and you won't be swapping any of the hardware components in the actual machine. If it absolutely must have extra stuff then it's probably using bluetooth. This is a pretty standard stack since the communication is through known protocols no drivers are really needed. Even then, I can't see it using anything more than a BT mouse or keyboard; maybe browsing other BT devices providing file access. If it does grow beyond an embedded http/https viewer then the hardware support would be compiled into the kernel behind the interface. The advertised kernel already supports industry standard hardware calls so only hardware based outside ISO standards will have issues.

rhomp2002
rhomp2002

If it is free and provided by the city then the citizens are paying for it with their taxes. The problem is that the cities are having a tough time right now with the recession and the false limitations on what taxes they can levy. Also the cities are too busy like the states in trying to be the everything for everybody. Someone needs to get in there, analyze what is truly needed, fund that and then cancel all the rest of the BS. Then there will be money to pay for the Free Wifi.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

It's not going to be 'like Linux'. Apparently it's going to be a new distribution of Linux itself.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Everybody can jump in with there own product offering. The market decides on the winners through natural market forces based on quality and functionality. Money isn't the only currency a capitalist aproach can work with. As for Google and this specific case, they are primarily a brand and advertisement company. The device may not be encumbered by addware but it sure does focus end users towards online systems where google already has the add mechanisms in place. After all, they are the strongest brand in the world and purely based on advertising through the freely offered services.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"Google ... will generate revenue from it, and that isn't really what open source is supposed to be about." Then someone better tell RedHat, Novell, IBM, and all the others. Who said open source can't be about making money?

john3347
john3347

"Why would Google spend resources to develop and market their own browser and operating system when an open source alternative already exists." Because Google cannot sell your personal information that is on somebody else's servers. The reason that they want you to believe is that the more users they have roped in, the greater their advertising revenue.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Basically, the expected aproach is a minimal OS base that opens into Chrome as the interface. If the rumored product of a browser tablet is outcome then that may be all that's needed. If other tablet devices do a better job then natural market forces have worked. If it's more than rumor, Google understand the why of it. For me, it's worth watching only because it's not been done before and trying new ideas is how things evolve.

mitzampt
mitzampt

Well you hit two nails with one hammer: I must agree that this OS may stay in beta stage longer than other usual stuff, with the mention that it might still be reliable just like other google software. Please do not attack my personal position, I actually like the Google Apps and all the inovations Google brought to the Web. As for Duke Nukem Forever, i read on another forum that the name tells it all: it will stay in development forever ;). You must also take into consideration that google might actually try a WebOS with a Linux thin client. If you are unfamiliar with the concept you should google (pun intended) for EyeOS.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I thought they got out of consumer-grade electronics decades ago. I assume they're looking at it from the components / chips / processors point of view, not with an eye toward manufacturing complete products.

Systems Guy
Systems Guy

If google were to stick some kind of tracking code in the kernel it would eventually be caught, probably sooner than later. That's one of the great things about open source.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I hope you have this phrase copyrighted, because I'm gonna quote the living stuff out of it and I want you to profit.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Just like Kodac, pick the images or documents you want printed and they'll ship them right over. :D Seriously though, that's why I included the three potential cases in my post. Based on the initial device hype as an http/https viewer tablet only, adding a great deal extra hardware doesn't seem to fit. This is the Amazon Book Reader for google services. As mentioned though, should the use case expand to include peripherals, bluetooth offers one form of connection for your headphones, keyboard, mouse.. I wouldn't rush out and by it unjustified either but I'm also not rushing out to by the base device unless it somehow blows Nokia's tablet line out of the water. Also, if your printers, scanners, media players, flash drives (probably an SD slot rather than thumbdrive) stick to industry standards, they are already supported by the kernel so the variable is if Google compiles a minimal kernel with just the tablet hardware support or if they include the extra device support. osX already enjoys support for many different peripherals simply through industry standards compliance. It's the Windows only hardware that makes a mess of things; the Winmodems of the printer and webcam commodities. At this point, we're all guessing blindly unless someone out there is a Google employed developer. It's best to keep multiple "what if" cases in mind.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"... it's not meant to have all sorts of third party hardware plugged into it ..." Screw that sideways and twice on Saturday. If Google intends this to run their on-line word processor and spreadsheet apps, there better be a way to print it out. If Google intends storing all my data on their servers, there better be a way to get those files in. Bluetooth? I'm not buying all new peripherals with Bluetooth just to use Google's netbook.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

From anything I've read so far, all you'll see when it's booted up is the Chrome browser interface. The browser will be your desktop environment. On the local side this is pretty minimal: Boot Loader Kernel Minimal userland Minimal graphic layer Chrome This contrasted to a full distribution: Boot Loader Kernel Full Userland Xorg or similar graphic layer Gnome, KDE or similar full desktop environment Applications including browser Google's potential is basically what you have on your mobile phone less all the functions except for the http viewer. Essentially, it's a minimalist embedded platform where all functionality is provided on the server side.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I was more entertained by my own finding of the source data and confirmation that the rumors about the brand where infact founded. I'll have to set a reminder to check back for next year's report if it's also provided openly. Odd that I'd take so much interest now after long having left my analyst title.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

The relatively vague initial use of the word 'strong'. From your first link, "Brand value is the financial value of a brand, defined as the sum of all earnings that a brand is expected to generate." I was thinking of 'strong' as global name recognition in terms of the number of people who would be able to recognize the name, not necessarily those who would be spending money on it. That's why I dislike it when the media refers to a country as 'largest', but doesn't define whether they mean area, population, GDP, etc.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

To be honest I hadn't looked it up myself though I'd heard a few different places that Google had taken the top brand name's place. Having looked myself now: http://www.millwardbrown.com/Sites/optimor/Media/Pdfs/en/BrandZ/BrandZ-2007-RankingReport.pdf Page 10 - Over All (?) #1 Google valued at 66,434 Million Dollars #2 GE #3 Microsoft #4 Coke #5 China Mobile Page 16 - North America #1 Google #2 GE #3 Microsoft #4 Coke Page 16 - Asia #1 China Mobile #2 Toyota #3 NTT DoCoMo Page 22 - Soft Drinks #1 & 4/5 = Coke #2 & 1/5 = Pepsi Page 23 - Technology #1 Google #2 Microsoft #3 IBM #4 Nokia #5 HP http://www.millwardbrown.com/Sites/Optimor/Media/Pdfs/en/BrandZ/BrandZ-2009-Report.pdf In 2009: Page 09 - Top 100 #1 Google valued at 100,000 Million #2 Microsoft #3 Coke #4 IBM #5 McDonalds Page 33 - Technology #1 Google #2 Microsoft #3 IBM #4 Apple #5 Nokia These are overall top 100 and technolgoy top brands. The regional breakdowns show that Google is not represented in Asia, Europe or UK even in 2009's report. I'm not meaning to pound any point home. As a brand analyst in a previous life, stumbling on these reports was rather interesting. I've saved '07 through '09 and may remember to check back in six months for '10.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'm almost certain more people have heard of Coke than Google, and that more people have used it. Disney / Mickey Mouse is probably a better-known brand too. Not everyone has a computer, you know.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Yup.. very true. make money on services, make money on value added software, make money through contracts to modify existing code.. lots of money making potential if one can think past the software as the end product.

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