We all know about Google, and even some of their other offerings such as Gmail, Google Drive and Google Calendars.
But what exactly in Google Chrome OS?
What is so special about this operating system and the newly released Chromebooks which run it? Well, it just may be that Google has been quietly working away at the next revolution in computing.
What is Chrome OS?
On the face of it, Google Chrome OS looks a lot like any other Linux based OS. Virtually indistinguishable from Ubuntu, Fedora or CentOS if you have ever used them. But what makes it different? What makes it revolutionary in an industry which is dominated by Microsoft Windows and Mac OSX?
Enter The Cloud Desktop
When you start up your Windows PC or Mac, you boot into a local desktop. What this means is that all of your system settings, documents and files are stored on the hard drive inside your computer. What Chrome OS is proposing, is moving your entire computing requirements to the cloud. Wow! Imagine logging into an online desktop, with all of your apps, music, documents and files all in the same place. Imagine your mobile phone, tablet, ultra-light laptop and home desktop all reading from the same hymn sheet. This is what Google is working towards with Chrome OS.
Currently, if you have a computer at home and possibly a laptop, tablet and smartphone, it is likely that each device holds different information. You may have your documents on your home PC, but your Macbook Pro that you take on the road does not have access to them. I am sure you have struggled to put your important presentation onto a USB drive as you rush out the house in the morning! The difference with Chrome OS is that the same files will be visible on any device, no matter where in the world you are, or even if you only have your phone with you. Get rid of those flash drives! The cloud is going to change all of this.
I am sure you have been through the disastrous event of losing your phone, or worse, losing or having a computer stolen. The first thing that springs to mind is thoughts such as
What about my documents?
What about my family photos?
What do I do???
The sad reality is that for most people the answer is pretty much nothing. Unless you are organised enough to back your computer up to an external drive regularly, you have no copies of your important files. With Chrome OS, Google stores all of your files and information on the cloud, so it will all be in the same place no matter how many iPhones you lose, or how often your car is broken into.
But what about security? How on earth can keeping all of my personal information on a server somewhere in the USA be secure? How can I trust it? Well, Google has this one covered with two-step authentication and industry leading encryption. It is not perfect, sure, but it has to be better than keeping information on a computer that can be stolen and hacked into.
Another key benefit with using a cloud based operating system is the ability to share information. By ensuring that every user has a Google Drive which can be shared with anyone on demand, it lends itself to powerful collaboration and team fluidity. What is more, Google Chrome is inherently integrated with social media including Google+, Facebook and Twitter.
What about Microsoft Office?
Another compelling reason why people will be remaining on Windows based architecture for the foreseeable future is the dominance of Microsoft Office in the business and education arena. Google has been rolling out markedly improved office software with each regular update of it’s Google Docs (Drive/Apps). The launch of HTML5 and CSS3 has allowed Google to add a wealth of new features to it’s cloud-based office suite. It’s pure simplicity and minimalist feel is certainly refreshing, but may not have quite as many features to draw the office crowd quite yet.
Google has also publicised the fact that being a lightweight cloud-driven operating system, the hardware that is required to run it is very basic. No longer do you need bulky computers with large storage systems and powerful processors to manage your digital life. Google’s newly released line of lightweight Chromebooks may just be the ticket for the busy mobile professional.
In summary, Chrome OS certainly represents the future of computing. Scaled down lightweight machines, inter-device operability, cloud storage and online document publishing is obviously the way technology is heading. For example, look at what Apple and Microsoft are trying to achieve with iCloud and SkyDrive respectively. However, it is difficult to argue that Google’s offering is a more complete product.
Is Chrome OS and a Google Chromebook for you? Well, if you spend the majority of your time on the web, and would appreciate the ability to craft simple documents and have access to your music on the road, then give it a try! On the other hand, if you are a hardcore Microsoft Office user, Chrome OS represents a peek into the near future if nothing else.