If I ranked all of things I’m interested in, technology would be at the top of that list right now. Which is good, because now is a really good time to be interested in technology. The rise of smartphones and the flowering of mobile operating systems that is going on right now means that there are new and exciting things going on in the technology world all the time. Take last week’s announcements from Google for example.
In case you don’t feel like clicking on a link, I shall summarize for you. Sometime in the recent past, Google announced that they were developing an OS for laptops called Chrome OS. This is in addition to their smartphone OS which is called Android. Chrome is different from older OSes like Windows or Mac OS in that it is basically a glorified web browser. That is, everything that you do on a Chrome laptop is done on the internet. All of your data is stored on the internet, all of the apps you use are stored on the internet, and so forth.
There are several aspects of this that interest me. First of all, Chrome is a much more lightweight OS than Windows or Mac OS, which means that machines running Chrome should be faster and require less powerful processors and such than machines running those other OSes, which means that Chrome laptops should also be cheaper than Windows or Mac laptops.
Second, doing everything in the cloud means that you don’t have to worry about losing your data because of something going wrong with your computer. Hard drive failure? Not a problem, because Chrome laptops don’t have hard drives. Computer crashes? Who cares? All of your data is on the internet. Now, I suppose if you don’t trust Google with your data, that would be an issue. But it’s not something I’m particularly concerned about. And, since everything you do on a Chrome laptop is stored in the cloud, you can log onto any Chrome laptop, or the Chrome browser on a Windows or Mac laptop, and get access to all of your stuff. You don’t have to worry about transferring files or whatever.
Another cool thing about Chrome OS is that every device running Chrome OS is going to have 3G internet access. But unlike most devices with 3G, you don’t have to sign a two-year contract with a service provider. In fact, Verizon is actually providing 100 MB of data per month free for the first two years after you buy a Chrome laptop. Now, 100 MB isn’t a ton, but when you consider that it’s free, and that 3G data plans are usually ridiculously expensive (for example, AT&T has a plan that gives you 200 MB of data a month for $15), you could maybe start to see what an awesome deal this. And if you want or need to use more than 100 MB per month of 3G data, you can of course pay for more. And the plans seems to be pretty reasonably priced as well.
I’m not an expert on computer security by any means, but the security features of Chrome OS definitely sound solid. Chrome OS utilizes something called “sandboxing,” which means that every app is kept separate from every other app. So if one app becomes infected with malware, that malware can’t spread to any other app. Sounds pretty good.
Another security feature of Chrome OS that sounds interesting is something called “Verified Boot.” This means that whenever Chrome OS boots up, it checks itself to make sure that nothing is wrong. If something wrong is detected, then Chrome OS can automatically revert back to the last known good state. And if there is no last known good state, then it can automatically download a new version of the OS. Pretty sweet.
Speaking of automatically downloading things, that reminds of another awesome feature of Chrome OS: it updates itself automatically. That means no more annoying pop-up boxes telling you that your computer needs to restart so it can update. Heck, even when you don’t have to restart, it’s pretty annoying to get notifications telling you that you need to update stuff. So that’s something I certainly won’t miss if I start using Chrome OS.
By the way, here’s a link to the Chrome OS website. Just in case you were interested in learning more about it straight from the source.
Now, I must mention that since I started writing this post, my enthusiasm for Chrome OS has been tempered somewhat. I’ve read some stuff by people who have actually had a chance to use it, and they’ve had some negative things to say. The biggest complaint seems to be that it’s very slow, which is highly disappointing to me, because something that was very exciting to me about Chrome OS was that it was supposed to be blazing fast. But it’s in beta right now, so hopefully they’ll make some major improvements before it’s actually released to consumers.
In any case, all of this probably means nothing for my long-term plans of buying an iPad and shifting all of my computing over to iOS. Chrome OS is a neat idea, and if Google can pull it off and package it up in a machine that costs $200 or so, I will definitely be interested. But if Chrome laptops cost any more than that, I highly doubt if I would buy one. After all, Chrome OS is virtually identical to the Chrome browser, which is free and runs on the computer I already have. I’m using it right now to write this blog, in fact. But as excited as I initially was about Chrome OS, it’s getting less and less likely that I would actually want to plunk down the cash on a laptop running Chrome OS when I can use the Chrome browser for free on my two year old Lenovo netbook that’s running Windows XP.
I still want to get into the Pilot Program though. Just wanted to add that in case anybody from Google reads this. After all, I might change my mind if I actually use it myself.