Unpolished Chrome – is Google’s Operating System failing?

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Early this week during the Q1 2011 earnings call, Google’s new SVP of Commerce and Local, Jeff Huber, mentioned that Chrome OS was coming “later this year”. This may imply another delay for what was Google’s ‘fledgling’ OS — they have been saying for months that users should expect to see the first commercial Chrome OS devices this summer.

 

As an early convert to the web O/S, I’m now beginning to think that this release is not only is it a bit late – its just not what it could be. At the moment we have android aps, chrome web aps, extensions and websites. They don’t always join up or interact (exceptions include evernote). We ultimately have many fractured clouds only tied together by their need for web. For me, Chrome OS should have been used to tie everything together.

Chrome should gave been the foundation of the tablet revolution not something hacked from Android. I’m a huge fan of Android – I own and have owned Android tablet and phone devices by Motorola, Samsung, HTC and Sony Ericsson. However, with the tablet version of their well known mobile OS (honeycomb 3.0) now out, I think Google may have jumped their own bandwagon.

I played with it earlier today on a Xoom and have to admit I wasn’t wildly impressed. Yes, its slick and well designed- but its far from intuitive and certainly lacks the standard function keys we’ve come to expect from the Android OS releases. For me, I would also have loved to see Android adopting a chrome style web app browser. Why cant the Android browser deal with web apps? Why cant Chrome OS deal with Android Apps? Where is the syncing? I’m really surprised I haven’t heard for more people calling for these enhancements instead of third party tools (such as the dolphin browser)

I’ve played with various releases of Chrome OS and the Chrome browser (as they were made available to developers within the Chromium project) – I was initially impressed with early iterations. It was quick and simple – what everyone was looking for. It was Google’ified and easy to use for newcomers – in a way that Linux installs hadn’t always been in the past. However, it didn’t go or develop anywhere from there. As time progressed, I played with light iterations of Linux such as Joli OS.

Jolicloud/JoliOS has since developed faster than Chrome OS (it was released as a well formed beta that has been allowed to evolve). The new breed of Linux installations also feel far less intrusive. For instance, at another point in the earnings call I mentioned earlier, Chief Financial Officer Patrick Pichette noted that Chrome was being heavily invested in by the company because each user is a “locked-in”. Firstly, this is probably not the best way to phrase this statement. It’s also not really fully true — when users load Chrome for the first time, though many are likely to choose Google users have the option to select between Google, Bing, or Yahoo as their default search engine. Secondly, along with being poor phrasing, it also reminds users why Google has been so benevolent. A free OS allows Google to track users even more. As much as Google might be playing up the ‘openness’ of the OS, I for one, am starting to find that a bit creepy. (Again, to be exact, the OS isnt open – Chromium is open)

After trials of the OS, i’m convinced that the future of the cloud is not solely my browser – but a browser that is truely capable of being cross platform. It should be built using standards based web technologies but the experience must be better than Google OS. Chrome OS, for those who haven’t gotten to play with it yet, is a Google Chrome browser without a close, minimize or resize button. There is no way out or anywhere else to go.

While I appreciate the sentiment that as everything exists in the browser, so you dont need anything else – I think that, well, you just *do*. Yes, we may be moving towards constant connection but the user experience wont match the potential until we have omni present internet. At the moment, where android felt like living with web integration – chrome feels like giving up my user experience. Its not seamless and its far from a transparent connection (my laptop and tablet for instance both have sim cards). However, Android’s custom loaders and fully controllable settings and interfaces we had an experience of a customizable and personalized interface – with Chrome OS it feels like giving up control over display, control and access.

So, while I think Google will probably come good (I’m a welcome convert), until a time when Chrome can be greatly improved I think I think we need an exceptional browser to bridge the gap. I’m very keen for Android to be equipped with a fully functional Chrome browser – and chrome to emulate Android. One browser that syncs everything between the desktop and everything else. Not just a browser, but a browser I can take anywhere. I think, people need to transition slowly and a truly mobile web is the way to break us all in.

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