It’s the ultimate showdown in the technology world, the clash of giants that has been eagerly awaited for years. Web giant Google is taking its clearest aim yet at Microsoft with its plan to produce its own operating system that would optimise the way computers work on the Internet.
The Chrome operating system is due to be out in the second half of next year and will initially be used in netbooks, company executives Sundar Pichai and Linus Upson said in a blog posting. The operating system would be released as free, open-source software, which would allow anyone to use or modify it.
At the core of Google’s vision is the most important trend in the networked world: the move from running applications on a desktop computer to running them through a web browser.
From Gmail to Facebook and Picassa to Twitter, the most popular uses for computers are no longer the disc-churning software programmes like Microsoft Office, which have clogged up hard drives for years. The new paradigm is cloud-based computing, where all the heavy lifting and storage is done on companies’ server farms, which people access over their broadband connections.
According to Google, it’s time that computers reflected the change.
“The operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web,” Google executives Sundar Pichai and Linus Upson wrote in a blog posting announcing the move.
The Chrome operating system is Google’s “attempt to re-think what operating systems should be”, based on three key attributes: “speed, simplicity and security”.
“We’re designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you on to the web in a few seconds. We are completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.”
That vision sounds like digital heaven for computer users who have wrestled forever with bloated software and computers that progressively get slower and slower.
“People want to get to their email instantly, without wasting time waiting for their computers to boot and browsers to start up. They want their computers to always run as fast as when they first bought them,” the Google blog said.
“They want their data to be accessible to them wherever they are and not have to worry about losing their computer or forgetting to back up files. Even more importantly, they don’t want to spend hours configuring their computers to work with every new piece of hardware or have to worry about constant software updates.”
As enticing as that prospect may seem, it’s not guaranteed to work, says Don Retallack, vice president of research at Directions on Microsoft – a company that tracks the software giant.
“Google may or may not have the experience and capability of actually producing an operating system and getting it deployed,” he said. “It may not realise how hard it is.”