Thursday, April 08, 2010

Chromium OS

Chromium OS is the open source development version of the Google's Chrome OS. The source code of Chrome OS was released on November 19th, 2009 under the BSD license as Chromium OS.

Chromium OS aims to build an operating system that provides a fast, simple and more secure computing experience for people who spend most of their time on the web. It targets to build a powerful platform for developing a new generation of web applications.

Chromium OS is the name of the project and Google Chrome OS is the name of the product. But the developer builds are still termed as the Chromium OS.

But the advent of the Chrome OS has led to a bigger question – Do we really need a new Operating System? More specifically - Why Google Chrome OS?

The traditional boot-up process that we go through everyday involves a series of steps like -

  • Loading the BIOS
  • Hardware detection
  • Loading and starting the Boot-loader
  • Loading and starting the Kernel
  • Starting the OS primitives
  • Running the startup applications

Even the fastest computer in the world takes about 45 seconds for this to happen.

This was the focal point of Google while building the Chromium OS. For millions of naïve users who use their netbooks/laptops mostly for internet, 45 seconds is a lot of waiting time. Google plans to make the web browser the Operating System for fast boot-up and this OS is the Chromium OS. In fact Google is claiming a 7 second boot-up for the Chrome OS and in certain instances the boot-up time has been as low as 3-4 seconds.

The Chrome OS hasn't been released yet and the expected release date of the Chrome OS is late 2010 or early 2011. But technical enthusiasts can still get first impressions through the open-source Chromium OS project.

Google Chrome OS is built on the Linux kernel and is expected to be free on release, but then what’s the economy model of Google? - Chrome pushes Google web applications like Google Docs, Google Calendar, Picassa, Youtube, etc. The major revenue stream of Google is through its advertisements. More users of Google applications will yield more revenue to Google through advertisements.

All the applications utilized by the Chorme OS are cloud based applications. A major drawback is the customer trust on Google. All our documents – text docs, spreadsheets, and presentations are all on the Google cloud. How can an individual be sure that his documents are secure from unprivileged users? The recent crash of Gmail has strengthened the apprehension and has caused a panic about the cloud based OS of Google.

Major Drawbacks

  • Google is considering Chrome OS as a companion device. It is assuming that every user will have another work-station at their disposal
  • Vague support for working offline. Google is planning to provide a little support through Google Gears and local caches, but every the idea has to be solidified
  • Android applications are incompatible with Chrome OS
  • Chrome OS requires internet access for everything
  • Every application which users desire cannot be integrated into the cloud
  • Browser lock-in. No other browser can be used expect for Google Chrome

The Brighter Side

  • Speedy boot-up
  • Security by default
  • Support for both x86 and ARM architectures
  • Several applications are available by default like Google Docs and Microsoft Office Live
  • No need to install anything. Just plug-n-play

On a whole, Google has created a lot of buzz about its new Operating System. Let’s wait and watch. I recently was a part of a presentation around the Chromium OS - check it out here.

If you would like to try out Chromium OS for yourself, either follow the build instructions at (or) check out my next post - Running Chromium OS in VirtualBox.

No comments: