Googles idea of an operating system is Chrome

Could you live your life in a cloud (Vince's words not mine) using just a browser and living online. Google are starting to punt the idea, not for the first time, of a light weight operating system where everything is accessed via a web browser. So, could you work entirely on the internet

living in the cloudThe Daily Telegraph asked the question Could it [Google Chrome OS] kill Microsoft Windows in last weekends Saturday edition. The concept being that users embracing cloud computing could survive online using applications like Google Docs to do everything that they want. My instant reaction was an emphatic No as I need access to thick net applications, like NetBeans (the Java development environment) to work; but then I thought about the average user. The article makes the point that this is Google dropping the mother of bombs on its chief rival, Microsoft, but it raises an interesting point could you get everything you want via a web browser?

For the average computer user (if such a person exists) most of what they use everyday is increasing hosted on the web:

  • Web based email (GMail, Hotmail, Yahoo email, etc.,)
  • Web based calendars (Google Calendar, etc.,)
  • Social media (FaceBook, twitter, linkedin, ctc.,)
  • Television (iPlayer, etc.,)
  • Media content (the list is too long, but the BBC is a great example)
  • Restaurant and hotel reservations
  • Transport
  • Holidays
  • Documents (Google Docs) and photos (flickr)

The list is endless and growing everyday and mobile technology is creating a connected world where users can access many of these whilst on the move, wired up 24-7.

But, what do you use that isn't on the web? I asked Vince our Sales and Marketing Director and he doesn't use any desktop software that he couldn't find an equivalent on the internet. Even he thought that was shocking!

I remember around the launch of Window 95, Microsoft promoting the idea of a world that connected users via their desktop to online content using active desktop.

Active Desktop was a feature of Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0s optional Windows Desktop Update that allows the user to add HTML content to the desktop, along with some other features. This function was intended to be installed on the then-current Windows 95 operating system. It was also included in Windows 98 and later Windows operating systems until Windows Vista, where the feature was discontinued. This corresponded to version Internet Explorer 4.0 to 6.x, but not Internet Explorer 7.
Active Desktop From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

microsoft website in 1995I remember trying the optional update and thinking it was pretty cool, but the internet was a very different place then and it lacked the interactive engagement that social media and other phenomenons have introduced over the last decade. Perhaps Microsoft got ahead of themselves (or maybe its users), but the concept was a good one and one that Google apparently want to explore.

A cynic might come to the conclusion that Google have a strong brand on the web and Microsoft are playing follow the leader; after all you only have to look at Bing.

So perhaps, for many computer users the concept of a Chrome Operating System (OS) is realistic and maybe, just maybe NetBooks and iPads are the first step towards software screens a concept introduced in The Times Eye sci-fi series and a global, interconnected super artificial intelligence called Athena akin to an advanced version of of search engine that can interact with theirs users. Image, a search engine that answers back!

I seem to have digressed from the original topic, but in part this reflects the research (over glorifying this a tad) and discussions we have had whilst I wrote the article. I initially thought, no way, but the more we considered the question the more it became the obvious conclusion for the majority of users. The internet has come on a long way since 1995 and one thing I am sure of is that it is still evolving at incredible rates as new ideas are thrown into the melting pot.


You can blame Grant Bagwell our technical director for lending me various science fiction books over the years for some of these more outlandish thoughts and and some of the random resources we manage to cobble together, he obviously has too much time on his hands to find some of these articles!

Google Chrome OS: Could it kill Microsoft Windows

Active desktop

Is All of Human Knowledge on the Internet

A Time Odyssey

Date: 31/03/2011


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