Five questions about Google Chrome OS

'Will Chrome OS keep Microsoft up at night?' and other burning questions

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The big news this morning is Google's Chrome OS: a Linux-based operating system designed specifically for getting to the Web and Web apps faster.

If that sounds familiar, that's because Google's Web browser, Chrome, was built around the same idea of rendering Web pages and Web applications faster and better than traditional browsers. Those claims have since been put to the test, and the results for Chrome have so far been mixed.

So will Google Chrome OS be any better? Is it going to be a useful alternative or just another way for Google to pull more people into Google's suite of online products like Google Docs, Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Reader?

There are still a lot of questions out there about this new OS, but here are the top five questions on my mind.

Is Google Chrome OS really practical for anything more powerful than a Mobile Internet Device (MID)?

When I first read Google's announcement for Chrome OS, two products immediately came to mind: Crunchpad and the rumoured Apple tablet. To be honest MIDs are the only plausible reason I can see for wanting to use this OS. Google says Chrome OS is designed "to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds."

The company also says that for applications "the web is the platform" not the OS. In other words, this OS isn't for running Microsoft Word or other desktop apps.

That's a problem in my view. Sure Google Docs is a great application for typing up a basic document, but it is far from the powerful tool that Microsoft Word is. So while Google says this OS is ideal for netbooks, I don't see why you would want to handicap yourself by using a less-functional OS on a piece of hardware--like a netbook--that has a nearly full-sized keyboard and a good processor. Google also says the OS can be used on desktops, which could be ideal for a public Internet terminal, but for the home user? Forget it. The only plausible use I can see for Chrome OS on your home computer would be under a dual-boot scenario to get on the Web quickly without waiting for Windows or OS X to startup. That's a similar scenario another cloud operating system, Good OS, was also envisioned for.

Will Chrome OS keep Microsoft up at night?

Don't make me laugh. Chrome OS is about as much a threat to Microsoft as a mosquito is to a bear - assuming the mosquito doesn't have Malaria that is. It's hard to envision Chrome OS significantly impacting a full-featured OS like Windows. Microsoft and Google aren't even on the same page when it comes to defining a cloud OS so they're unlikely to compete in that arena either.

Microsoft's cloud OS, Azure, is a "scalable hosting environment on which developers can build and host their applications." In other words, Azure runs on servers not home PCs, and is a tool for businesses that want to build Web applications and services. Google, on the other hand, is advocating Chrome OS as a solution for the home computer.

Google says virus free. Really?

Here we go again with another company building the myth of a virus-free operating system. The fact is you just can't build an operating system that is fully immune to malware and viruses. Yeah, yeah, I know you've owned a Mac for the last 10 years and have never had one virus, but when you owned a Windows machine it was always down for maintenance.

We've all heard that story, and we all know about the Mac vs. PC security argument. Believe it or not there are Mac viruses out there; it's just that Mac malware is so scarce that it's highly unlikely you'll ever come across one, but a Mac is far from being perfectly secure.

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