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Putting What Little We Actually Know About Chrome OS Into Context (daringfireball.net)
68 points by mqt 2123 days ago | 38 comments



Daring Fireball is once again right on target. I do, however, still take issue with two points:

1) "Is it feasible to use Chrome OS as your sole computer?" This question is asked, but then the arguement proceeds as if this question was answered "no". However, in reality, I think that this question is a definite yes for the vast majority of home users... minus iPod support... not an insurmountable problem.

2) The entire "An odd name" section. Yes, I agree that significantly different things should have significantly different names. However, Chrome OS and the Chrome browser are NOT significantly different things. That's the beauty of this. Chrome OS is a straight forward extension of Chrome the browser. It's actually a huuuuge win for Google that people don't know what a browser or an OS is. They know that "Google Chrome" is something that you can get on a small laptop or something that you can get on windows or something that you can get on a Mac. Who cares? The point is that people will learn that some web sites work best "Powered by Google" or "With Chrome" or WHATEVER and they will ask "how do I get get this program?" and just because that question has two answers (an OS or a browser) doesn't mean they have to have two different names. You walk into a store and say "Give me Chrome". You can get a Chrome netbook or you can get Windows with Chrome OEM installed. The sales rep will explain, in a non-technical and probably highly-incorrect form, what Chrome is, and people will buy a Chrome OS netbook or an Windows laptop with Chrome OEM-installed, and be less confused.

Technical folks can overcome the naming confusion, but non-technical folks won't even know that the naming confusion exists.

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One of Microsoft's greatest accomplishments in the original "OS war" was to confuse users to the point where they didn't understand the difference between an OS and a computer. Most people didn't, and still don't, quite understand what a PC is vs. what Windows is, and this was brilliant. How can a competitor compete with your OS when users don't even know OS's exist? Most people have no idea they can install anything other than Windows on their PC, so to most people having anything else run on their computer means "buying a new computer". Google's goal is to make browsers the dominant platform in whatever way possible and completely commoditize everything "under" the browser, from the hardware all the way up to the OS in the same way that Microsoft's goal was to commoditize everything under the OS. It makes sense to me that a good goal for them would be to not make these things distinct and instead once again heighten the confusion. Google wants a very limited number of brand names that are tied to getting things done "browser", "googling", "apps", "chrome", etc. Then in Google's ideal world, when users go buy their next computer, and the salesperson says "this runs google chrome os", they will hear "this runs chrome" (which they have installed on their windows machine and use for most their work), and will thus say "oh ok then I can buy it".

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>One of Microsoft's greatest accomplishments in the original "OS war" was to confuse users to the point where they didn't understand the difference between an OS and a computer.

How, exactly, did Microsoft bring that about? Did your mom know the difference before Microsoft came about, and then they made it too confusing and she forgot?

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Most other OS vendors made it a thing to differentiate the OS from the computer, and still do. Apple wants you to know what Mac OS X is, and Linux obviously does as well. Microsoft worked very hard to blend the experience. In fact, they continue to do it today. Notice that their ads are "I'm a PC", NOT "I'm running Windows".'

Also, the point is not necessarily whether people are somehow born knowing the difference between the hardware and the OS, but rather that it is beneficial for some parties for people to be educated on this subject (such as Apple, and Linux), whereas it is not beneficial for others (Microsoft), and hence Microsoft can perpetuate this by simple inaction.

I think its a clear win for Google if people start being further confused about the difference between browsers and OSes, since their whole goal is to convince people that the browser is the OS.

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But apple ads are "I'm a Mac", not "I'm runninx OS X" so they don't care either.

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I agreed, especially with #1. I'm a writer, and I'll always have either a windows/mac computer at all times. However, I definitely would like to have a streamlined OS for a netbook, after it is a netbook.

I already use Google Docs for my writing, despite small privacy concerns (which as yet have shown to be more theoretical than realistic). 90% of what I use my laptop for now is just web browsing or working, and for me the two are one in the same.

What would make Chrome OS practical is full integration of their web apps, like Docs, into offline mode. I know they work offline, however it's still not like opening up Word, which it should be.

I think what the author overlooked, is that the majority of people online have computers that are solely used for browsing the internet and maybe as a secondary a word processing suite.

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He completely misses the giant iceberg that is Google Native Client -- there's only a few simple 'local' apps necessary for ChromeOS to be a perfect full-time desktop for me:

* A good terminal emulator / SSH client

* A VNC / Remote Desktop client

* A means of running a custom GNU userland locally -- User-mode Linux would be great, x86 virtualization would be good.

NaCL could also be a terrific gaming platform -- none of the crippling performance issues from Flash, and existing software is very portable to it. Think about games like QuakeLive and Off-road Velociraptor Safari -- fuck, think about a port of Steam with even a fraction of the catalog!

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[Google's] Native Client is an open-source research technology for running _x86_ native code in web applications (http://code.google.com/p/nativeclient/)

As Ars noted ChromeOS's hardware parters are pretty heavy on the ARM side of the fence. Presumably they could do something like Apple's dual-binaries and implement support for ARM. But it's no longer a no-brainer.

That said Native Client with it's cross platform video/audio libraries etc is pretty cool - shame it hasn't spread further yet.

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It's included with Chrome now.

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NaCL is a really interesting project, but it's x86-specific. A jitted NaCL based on LLVM makes more sense for native Chrome/ChromeOS apps.

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Chrome OS is not for everyone and it will be successful in its target marget - Netbooks.

Netbooks are under powered devices. Even when you run a full OS on a netbook, it is not a pleasant experience to run resource heavy applications like Photoshop. No one buys a netbook to run those kind of apps anyway. People look at netbook as a device on which they can read stuff, do some emailing or some light editing of documents. These are functions which Chrome OS can fulfill pretty easily. So I do expect Chrome OS to be a success in the netbook market. Outside of netbooks, maybe on tablets. Unlike Techcrunch, I don’t subscribe to the idea that Chrome OS is a credible competitor to Windows. So Chrome might succeed in the netbook market but that won’t put much of a dent in Windows dominance.

My 2 cents: http://www.manu-j.com/blog/google-chrome-os-a-speculative-an...

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But there are still plenty of "lightweight" Windows apps that won't run on Chrome, like Skype.

For anyone who has used a full-featured Windows/Ubuntu netbook, Chrome OS looks like a step backwards. However since few netbooks have been sold, Google may be able to target people who have no preconceived ideas about what a netbook can do.

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Skype won't run, but Gmail will, and it has video chat, too.

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[deleted]

I think you've missed the mark on a few points. As far as I know safari has the fastest javascript engine no matter where it runs, including ARM. It also supports local storage without google gears, buy using html5 local storage. With html5 I'm not sure what the point of gears is.

As far as native client is concerned regarding ARM, it'll probably happen but not because of the iphone and android, they have ways of running native apps. Apple wants you to use the app store and as far as I know android locks you into a vm so you'd need to write custom code anyway. It'll be for chrome os on netbooks.

http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/06/24/iphone-3gs-javascript-p...

http://webkit.org/blog/126/webkit-does-html5-client-side-dat...

http://google-code-updates.blogspot.com/2009/05/gmail-for-mo...

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Chrome is faster than safari on Mac http://www.manu-j.com/blog/safari-vs-firefox-vs-chrome-on-ma...

The point of google gears is that you can get the HTML5 features in IE and other older browsers. It also has some features like drag and drop which AFAIK is not present in HTML5

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Well if benchmark was against nighty build of chrome it would make more sense to benchmark with WebKit nightly.

Drag and drop is present in HTML five and works in FF3.5, Safari4 and… Internet Explorer! It is actually based on MS implementation which was first introduced a while back in IE5.

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The reason I don't test webkit is that it is not clear what improvements in webkit land up in Safari. Unlike chrome or safari where a release is just a tagged nightly, wbkit nightlies never directly become Safari.

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Sure they do. A whole bunch of changes that have been accumulating in the WebKit nightly builds just became available when Safari 4.0 was released, not the least of which was Squirrelfish Extreme, which was branded as "Nitro" in Safari 4.x. I'm not sure how one could miss that, between Google, Wikipedia, Apple marketing pages and webkit.org.

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HTML5 Drag'n'Drop: http://www.whatwg.org/specs/web-apps/current-work/#dnd

Gears as a Bleeding Edge HTML5 implementation: http://almaer.com/blog/gears-as-a-bleeding-edge-html-5-imple...

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I think Red Alert 3 runs on the iPhone, so it's pretty good if you're willing to put a lot of effort into optimizing things.

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With daring fireballs obvious and declared bias for Apple, its hard not to be a little cynical sometimes. Is it so ridiculous to talk about Chrome OS being a linux, or does it just make him feel better about Apple to downplay the relationship between BSD and OSX?

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He provides reasons why he doesn't think Chrome OS will be a Linux distribution as we know it. (Which I happen to agree with.) If you disagree with his conclusion, you should be able to explain what is wrong with his argument. His bias for Apple is not a part of that argument.

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Why would he downplay that? And Gruber was never a blind Apple fanboy — when apple does BS, he calls it BS (just search for "shit sandwich" in the article and follow the link). I have a feeling that you completely missed the point there.

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I like daring fireball but its a blog mostly about Apple. He will criticize Apple, but only when he's only talking about Apple by itself.

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RTFA (or your comment's parent) - He describes Apple's web-apps fiasco with the iPhone as a shit sandwich (and links to his lengthy essay on said sandwich) in this very article, which is 90% about Chrome OS.

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I didn't know there was any question that Daring Fireball was an Apple advocacy site. A large focus of this article was the way in which Chrome OS couldn't be considered Linux because it won't use X. There are other non-X linux distributions so his argument seemed odd to me. Given OSX's relationship to BSD it seems to an argument born from rationalising the rebranding of BSD to OSX. I don't think Google is going to feel any need to distance itself from Linux because it is not planning on selling Chrome OS.

Having said all that for sake of clarity (if there is any in that paragraph) I'll try not to comment on future Apple stories on this site, it doesn't seem productive.

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Except this isn't an Apple story.

It's more than just not using X that will make Chrome OS "not a Linux." Describing an operating system distribution as "Linux" implies an entire eco-system of software that Chrome OS will probably not have.

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How many non-X Linux distributions fit his description?

"For use as a desktop PC operating system, all the various “Linux distributions” are basically the same thing: variations of Gnome or KDE sitting atop the ancient X Window System."

It seems like Chrome OS will be the only non-X distribution which is a serious option for widespread desktop use. There are non-X distributions, but not desktop non-X distributions. If you want to dispute by adding Xfce or whatnot to Gnome and KDE, go ahead, but I don't think it's relevant to his main point: the mainstream desktop Linux distributions are all pretty much the same experience.

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If I'm not mistaken, he simply meant that Chrome OS will not be "a Linux" just because it uses the Linux kernel.

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I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s only supported for use on new PCs that are specifically certified to work with it

Isn't it supposed to built on a Linux kernel? In that case, I think it will potentially run on a rather wide range of hardware.

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That's assuming that google would be going the "just another linux distro" route. Personally, I don't think they will. My guess is the fact that they've chosen linux to be the kernel of their OS is purely an implementation detail that they intend to hide from most users. I think they will want to make an OS that's as easy to use as a browser, which means severely limiting the types of hardware it can run on.

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Sure they'll hide it. However, Linux has pretty good hardware support, and it will get better with Google's backing.

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As Gruber pointed out, it could be like OS X: built on BSD, runs only Apple's hardware, plus your PC hardware if you have massive quantities of time on your hands.

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One weekend is all it took me. It's not as hard you think.

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At a precise technical level, Linux is not an operating system. It is a kernel that can serve as the core for an operating system. What most people mean by "Linux", though, is an operating system built around the Linux kernel.

Hmmm. I disagree with his semantics. Linux is the operating system. The rest of a distribution - the userland stuff - is the environment. Since Linux is a monolithic kernel, all operating systems code exists in the kernel itself. Consequently, on a Linux system, everything in userland is not part of the operating system.

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The bootloader, libc, and init fall very squarely on the 'operating system' side of the fence.

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I agree - I had forgotten about what's necessary to even get a running kernel. I was thinking about the distinction between things that any usable system needs (like a shell, or programs like ls) but are not actually part of the operating system.

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Personally, I can't see the appeal of Chrome OS over something like Ubuntu NR.

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