Exciting news for tech fans everywhere as Google announce they are setting their own operating system upon the world in the second half of 2010.
Initially targeted at Netbooks (incredibly small laptops with relatively low specifications), Google Chrome OS will be a lightweight, open source alternative to Windows. It will be designed primarily for online use, with the entire OS essentially consisting of the Google Chrome browser running on a Linux backend.
The vision is that in the future rather than a developer producing a software package that requires a download and installation they would instead create a web based application that could be run from any Internet browser. In many ways the idea makes a great deal of sense; you wouldn't have to worry about updating your software, transporting files from one machine to another or indeed creating backups of your files. Everything would be stored online and as such none of these usual factors would be an issue anymore.
In addition developers would have no need to worry about creating multiple versions of the same application for different Operating Systems because as long as the user's browser was up to date they could run the software in question without issue. It would not matter whether Google Chrome OS, Mac OS or Windows was running on your computer you would still have access to all your online applications.
The ambition Google holds is that eventually Chrome OS will develop in to something that could be seen as a viable alternative for use on all types of computer, not just Netbooks. Personally, I both love and hate this idea of shaking up the way we use our computers in equal quantities; the possibilities are huge but the disadvantages are potentially crippling and too obvious to ignore.
Firstly and most importantly there is the fact that the whole idea is pretty much reliant on the user having a continuous Internet connection. Nowadays this isn't a problem for most homes and offices as an 'always on' broadband connection has become fairly standard. If however you were to find yourself without an Internet connection for whatever reason then your Operating System would immediately become useless. Whilst mobile broadband has become both faster and more affordable for those who don't have a fixed Internet connection, it will be of little use on a plane for eight hours!
A workaround to this would be to allow the OS to download web applications to your computer then run them as if you were connected to the Internet. Unfortunately, as soon as this becomes a consideration we neglect the primary purpose of having an online based OS in the first place.
Presently the majority of Internet applications are a little primitive in my opinion. Whilst they do have to be given a great deal of praise for evolving as quickly as they have in recent years, they are still some way off presenting an alternative to the traditional installed. I have previously written about such Internet based software such as the ever popular Google Docs and I hope to cover others in the future. These online versions do however still lag behind their desktop equivalents in both speed and functionality.
No one knows exactly what the future holds. It is undeniable that in the last couple of years our computing activities have become a lot more oriented around the Internet but whether we are ready for them to be entirely transferred remains to be seen.
Chris Holgate writes a weekly article of all things tech related. He is a director and copyrighter of the online computer consumables business Refresh Cartridges who sell cheap ink cartridges, toner cartridges, computer hardware and other computer consumables online. An archive of his work can be found at www.computerarticles.co.uk.