The big news this morning was that Google is to release its own Operating System during 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. Developers also wouldn't have to worry about creating multiple versions of the same application for different Operating Systems because as long as the user had an up to date browser they would be able to run the software. Regardless of whether you were using a computer that ran Google Chrome OS, Mac OS or Windows, you would still have access to all your favourite 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. First and foremost consider the fact that the whole idea is pretty much reliant on the user having a continuous connection to the Internet. For many, this isn't a problem as most home and office based users already have an 'always on' broadband connection, however if you find yourself in a situation without Internet then your Operating System immediately becomes useless. While mobile broadband is becoming faster and cheaper for those that travel away from a fixed Internet connection, it won't help if you're stuck 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. It is also undeniable that at present most Internet applications are a little primitive. They have to be given credit for evolving incredibly quickly in recent years however they're still a long way off representing a viable alternative to the large, installed applications most of us currently use. In the past I have discussed Internet based software such as Google Docs and in the future I plan to cover advanced online applications such as the drawing application SplashUp but these online versions 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.
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