What is Google planning with Chrome?

May 6, 2013

    Google Chrome

    Chances are, you’re reading this article on a Chrome browser. There’s also a good (but not equally so) chance you’re reading this on a Chromebook. With the Chrome browser teetering on taking the browser throne outright, and Chromebooks gaining in popularity daily, it’s time we take a look at what’s happening with Google’s baby. There is a lot going on with Chrome, as always, and I/O may give us a glimpse into what’s next.

    The OS

    Chrome OS is many things, and next to nothing, all at once. As it only operates on Chromebooks, and the perhaps forgotten Chromebox, it’s proprietary to Google-blessed equipment. That equipment is meant to take full advantage of Chrome OS, and keep the operation of it dead simple and speedy.

    The idea is also really simple: we use the web quite a bit, and do so much in it, so why not have a device that gets you straight there? While that seems limited to some, the days of changes are afoot. Google is set to change things up quite a bit, and some clues are right in our faces.

    As much as there is changing, we’re wise to remember one crucial aspect of Chrome: it’s not open. The Chromium build, which Chrome is based on, is absolutely free and open… but Chrome OS, as it stands, is not. There is no way to simply load Chrome OS onto a device, like you can Ubuntu or another Linux distro.

    To summarize, when we look at the operating system that is Chrome, we have a polished, proprietary system that has a wide open future, yet remains closed a bit. In more ways than Chrome OS, Google has the advantage here.

    chrome

    The browser

    The browser many consider to be the best is perhaps Google’s most penetrating product. Free to download, and free to use, it is available on any platform, at any time. It has the benefit of syncing to other iterations of Chrome (like on your Android device), making it a true cross-platform champion.

    Secure from the ground up, Google understands the pitfalls of navigating the Internet. Sandboxing is not only safe for the browser, it’s safe for your machine. Getting over the wall that is your browser window is difficult at best, making us feel comfortable. As the operating system is based on this browser, both are secure.

    In another stroke of genius, Google makes much of the apps available on Chrome OS useful in the browser as well. It may not be the exact method of accessing the app as the OS, but the browser has the capability. When considered flatly, the browser is a trojan horse for Chrome, mimicking the OS on any device.

    When we look at the browser, Google has a slightly altered, but eerily similar, version of the operating system. It can be used on any machine, meaning it not only is a cross platform champion, it’s a cross OS champion as well. This, above all, earns Chrome usership dividends.

    Chromebook-PIxel-logo-AA

    “Just an internet machine”

    That’s the knock on Chromebooks, isn’t it? As much as I’m on record as loving my Chromebook Pixel, that complaint holds merit. The device does access the browser for nearly everything, but the damning of it for doing so is short-sighted. That becomes evident more and more every day, and is about to get kicked in the teeth.

    Another knock is that software can’t be loaded locally on a Chromebook. With packaged apps, that complaint begins to decay. Packaged apps will be loaded locally, and act like standalone software apps. They will not open in a browser, or be dependant on a web connection. Rather than take Chrome OS backwards to allow software to be loaded, Google has taken operating systems to the next level by utilizing local apps based on web technology. Developers just need to follow suit.

    The web

    Even with packaged apps, we’ve still got at a shift toward cloud solutions. Even as Chrome begins to mature into a very real standalone OS, the push toward web apps is still very present. It may seem a conflicted gameplan, but it’s not. In fact, it makes perfect sense, considering the larger picture.

    We recently saw a great push toward HTML5, which made some of us wonder just what was going on. HTML5 is fast becoming standard, which is good for everyone involved. Developers have a very universal language to write for, and that language is perfect for the future. It supports mobile well, and has CSS capabilities which make building awesome looking stuff quicker and easier than ever before. It reduces time spent programming, meaning developers have more freedom to build awesome stuff, and more of it.

    With new operating systems like Firefox making exclusive use of web apps, it will be important moving forward. Packaged apps can easily support web apps, and vice versa, so we now have offline capabilities (of sorts) for web apps.

    Chromebook Pixel keyboard AA

    For What’s Next

    That was the tagline for the Pixel, but it didn’t tell us much. If we look at what is going on now with development, we begin to see very distinctly what is happening. That change we spoke of earlier is coming quickly.

    Like much of what Google is doing, the virtual keyboard is for the future. Currently being developed for Chrome OS, we wonder why Google would make something like that when only one device in the Chrome family is touch capable. Perhaps they’re readying a line of tablets, or perhaps it’s for another solution.

    Recently, Intel said there would be a line of $200 Android computers that would sport detachable keyboards, much like the Transformer series for Asus. There is also news noting that Intel’s Haswell processors will be running Chromebooks in the near future. Those virtual keyboards are almost certainly for a portable computing solution, which is good news for mobile productivity.

    Chrome OS is best used as a means to a productive end. You can do things with Chrome apps you can’t do on an Android app counterpart, which makes it a true enterprise solution. Given an option between a keyboard or not has a much further reaching impact to business than a traditional Chromebook. Coupled with packaged apps, the sky’s the limit for Chrome OS and business.

    Chromebook Pixel Hinge AA

    Conclusion

    Chrome is, perhaps, the most versatile weapon Google has. Android has a monstrous market share, and plenty of OS’s or skins based on it, but Chrome has a different type of reach. Android can’t readily enter into the desktop realm, and it most certainly doesn’t offer the type of productivity Chrome does.

    With the sheer amount of sessions Chrome has at I/O, it’s clear that Chrome is the new focus for Google. Everything from mobile HTML to gaming is being discussed for Chrome, so the time is right for Chrome to move into a leadership position. If that sounds far-fetched, it shouldn’t be. Chrome has already started leading the way, we just have to acknowledge it.

     

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    Comments

    • http://www.maverickcreative.ca/ Joshua Richards

      You basically said nothing in this article.

      • vampyren

        hehe very true, and i be very surprised if this whole Google OS is anything but a flop. You really got to be crazy to buy a expensive useless laptop.

        As much as i like Android i hate the idea behind cloud storage and cloud computing etc….Cloud has its benefit but i dont like it to replace my usual way of working. I like to have my things locally as well as cloud. A bit like Dropbox work. Not always i have internet and i dont want to be dependent on it for everything i do.

      • http://petercast.net Peterson Silva

        Lot of empty, disappointing articles like these on AA lately, unfortunately =/

    • http://www.facebook.com/amadeus.klein Amadeus Klein

      I hate to agree but the basic premise of this article is to say that Google is focusing on chrome more lately, but we don’t really know why… Most of the people who are reading this are aware of the general focus of Google I/O… I was hoping there would be some new information in this article, but sadly no…

    • http://www.facebook.com/timJ.collins Timothy Collins

      To be honest… this entire article read like half an ad for the Pixel and half a discussion of the problems of Chrome.

      I have no doubt that things like the Chromebooks are the future – off loading as much as possible onto the cloud and letting apps use that tech makes sense. It’s what Windows Surface tablets do as well, by the way – especially Win RT is really just using specially packaged HTML5 apps.

      But until I can use those apps completely and without any problems on the bus while I ride into work, that approach is still not ready for prime time. The tech is there, it’s just the access to the web that isn’t… it’s not there everywhere yet at least…

    • Paulus Net

      >> Chances are, you’re reading this article on a Chrome browser.
      Damn it, you got me :)

      • vampyren

        Nope FF

    • KrisRock

      Chromes OS will lead the future, “IF” android and Chrome OS will become one. Imagine using android on the go and when arriving at desk or home just plug in or connect Phone with Monitor and keyboard and you have your desktop. Also processors are already that powerful that 80% of all work can be done by them and even hard work like PS can be done in the cloud if processors are still not powerful enough in within the next 24 months.

    • lullo

      lot of words for a lot of nothing…. just waisted 15 min on this crap

    • Robert G. Ingersoll

      Want Chrome OS to be taken seriously ? Port Adobe Creative Suite 6 and Steam.

      • Paul Matencio

        Creative suite is dead. It will be replaced by creative cloud. Creative cloud is no more no less than packaged apps.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=16822034 Paul McElroy

      Android has staying power on desktops and laptops if it develops keyboard/mouse usability as well as a really good file system and window environment. Chrome is intended to be purely cloud based, and that is going to cause it to crash and burn.

      The best thing about Chrome OS is that it’s window system is, itself, based on Chrome, the browser, which is killer.

      If we want a cross device OS, Microsoft and Ubuntu have already made their initial offerings. It’s extremely surprising that neither Apple nor Google have made a cross device OS offering yet. I suppose for Apple it’s more understandable, simply because they painted themselves into a corner being the first king of the mobile world. Google, however, has no incumbent desktop/laptop OS making it verdant ground for Android to grow into.

      Chrome is dead, long live Android.

    • nishantsirohi123

      a dualboot android and chromeOS tablet or touch based laptop

      dreams

    • http://profiles.google.com/kenny.strawn Kenny Strawn

      Packaged apps actually CAN load external resources through XMLHttpRequest and webview elements (which are again, like the chrome.* Javascript APIs, limited to packaged apps). And in combination with .appcache files on the remote servers that the packed apps are accessing to allow for even more and more functionality as the days and weeks go on, we begin to see what happens here: Developers can actually update packaged apps, thanks to HTML5 AppCache and other tools, without even having to update the app in the Chrome Web Store (well, at least not unless they have to update the manifest file… and even that can have a “./manifest.json” entry within a cache manifest on a Web server, such that the app can, once installed, still be synced and updated on the fly without any user interaction whatsoever).

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