Chrome OS: all web, all the time

As you might have noticed, the guys at Google have released (well, not released, they’ve just publicly shown it for the first time; Chromebooks are coming out on June 15) Chromebooks, which are netbooks that run the Chrome OS.

Chrome OS (official site)

More about the actual computers later; the interesting part about the computer is its operating system. Chrome OS is a completely web-based operating system; it’s nothing but Chrome, Google’s web browser. That’s right, the only application on the computer is Chrome.

See, Google’s theory is that you can do everything on the web; you don’t need normal programs (or, for that matter, a normal OS) to get by. When you think about it, it makes sense, since a lot of people don’t do much on their computers. Here’s what the average person does on his/her computer:

  • Facebook/Twitter
  • Email (normally Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail)
  • Browsing the internet
  • Office stuff (word processing, spreadsheets, presentations)

Google believes that you can use web apps – or programs that run on a browser, through the internet – to do what I just mentioned above. If all you have is a web browser, you should be able to do everything I just mentioned. Browsing the internet and Facebook/Twitter are a given. Email can be accessed via webmail, which most people normally use anyway. You can use Google Docs or Zoho Docs for your office needs.

So yes, in theory, many people can get away with using nothing but a web browser. Another thing Google mentioned was that all your data is stored in the cloud, so in theory you can access all your stuff from any Chromebook.

Here’s Google’s introduction video to Chrome OS:

Will it catch on?

Really, I can’t imagine everyone just anyone can use Chromebooks because of its obvious limitations. I’m guessing Chromebooks will find their niche amongst teenagers and kids, who don’t really need conventional programs, as a first computer. After all, Chromebooks are cheap and simple, and it fits kids’ needs: most kids/teens just go on Facebook, check their email, and do some basic word processing.

Will it catch on with anyone else, though? I’m thinking it won’t, because it really lacks the power to do anything substantial. Again, though, if all you do is browse the internet or do some basic word processing it could work for you. Chromebooks could definitely work for seniors (Chrome OS is very simple) or even adults (based on what they do.)

Is it worth it?

Samsung's Chromebook
Samsung's Chromebook. Not the best looking but it works.

Chromebooks will start from $600 (US dollars): $500 for the computer itself and $100 for the OS. I think that’s ripoff, because for $600 you could buy a cheap Windows netbook (or for $400 you could buy a Linux netbook) and just install Chrome on that. That way you can do all the stuff on the web and use normal desktop apps.


One glaring weakness of Chrome OS is that it will fall flat on its face when there’s no internet connection. So obviously you don’t want to buy a Chromebook for your cousin in Tajikistan or your constantly-traveling uncle; Chromebooks will (obviously) work better for people who live in a place with good internet connection and who don’t travel that often.

In my opinion you can’t do everything with just the internet, at least not right now. Web apps just aren’t powerful or plentiful enough to be used as your only way of working.

Final thoughts

If you’re interested, Chrome OS is based off of Linux (most say Gentoo, but I’ve heard Ubuntu as well) except with all the normal applications removed.

Chromebooks will be available for order on June 15. We’ll see what happens then, Chromebooks will either be a huge success or a huge flop.

If you or someone you know wants a computer, it’s worth looking into a Chromebook. As I’ve said countless times, Chromebooks won’t work for everyone.

Say what you want about Google, but their Chromebook idea is pretty novel. We’ll see how successful it is.

Published by

Neel Mehta

Harvard College. Web developer. Sometime philosopher. Baseball junkie.

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